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-y s Y )^. f 7 "-''v^r 




The Ring of the Nibelung 










Copyright, MCMV, by 
Oliver Dxtson Company 

f • ' 

A. A. 


Bar Harbor^ August^ igog 


To endeavor to say much that is new or original 
about "The Ring of the Nibelung" would be a 
rash undertaking at this day. This little book is 
not such an undertaking. Its presentation of the 
origin, source, and musical structure of Wagner's 
great trilogy is founded largely upon the labors 
of others. The author acknowledges a deep in- 
debtedness to Hans von Wolzogen's thematic 
analysis, to Mr. Henderson's and Mr. Finck's 
biographies of the master, to Miss Weston's dis- 
cussion of the legends, to Mr. Krehbiel's "Studies," 
and to other works in less degree. 




Introductory xi 


The Composition and Sources of the Trilogy i 

The Composition of the Trilogy i 

The Sources of the Trilogy ii 


Wagner's Musical and Dramatic System 21 

The Drama and its Meaning 30 


The Music and the Story 36 

^ I The Rhine Gold 36 

II The Valkyrie 55 

III Siegfried 70 

IV The Dusk of the Gods 90 

Bibliography 121 

Index to Music Motives 123 



"The Ring of the Nibelung" is in many 
respects, the most important and original of the 
works of Wagner as a musical dramatist. It is 
the greatest in its proportions; the prelude and 
the three dramas composing it, "The Rhine 
Gold,'' "The Valkyrie," "Siegfried," and "The 
Dusk of the Gods," are formal on the model of 
the trilogies of the great Greek dramatists. Like 
them, Wagner's trilogy goes far beyond the more 
obvious and diverting functions of the theater, to 
embody in dramatic form a philosophy, a state- 
ment of some of the great underlying forces, the 
ethical principles of human life. And it marks 
the first complete achievement by Wagner of his 
own distinctive style as a l)nic dramatist; a style 
involving a complete breaking with all the meth- 
ods and traditions of operatic art as he found 
them, and the establishment of new ideals, new 
aesthetic principles, new methods of expression, a 
new technique in all the artistic factors that co- 
operate in the production of a lyric drama. These 
ideals, principles, and methods have taken firm 
hold of modem art; no composer can henceforth 
wholly escape from their influence, and the whole 
structure of modem music has felt in some degree, 
the transforming power that Wagner first definitely 
exercised in the music of "The Ring of the 



"Even during the composition of/ Lohengrin' 
... the subjects of Siegfried and Friedrich Roth- 
bart (Barbarossa) had usurped my fancy, '^ wrote 
Wagner in his "Communication to my Friends." 
He had finished "Lohengrin" in 1848. Through 
his studies for this and for "Tannhauser," the 
great world of the Teutonic legends had been 
disclosed to him, and he had come to the percep- 
tion of the inestimable value of these legends to 
the musical dramatist. He had made his experi- 
ment with the opera based on the historical sub- 
ject in "Rienzi"; and he had dallied with ideas 
of other such operas and dramas, only to become 
convinced of the impossibility of treating histori- 
cal details in musical drama. He had prepared 
sketches and memoranda for a prose drama on 
the subject of Frederick Barbarossa. His studies 
carried him far into the whole matter of mytho- 
logical as against historical subjects for operatic 
treatment; the main outcome of it all was that he 
found he could not give the hero, as he con- 
ceived him, an historical background fittmg and 
proper and accurate, without overloading the 
whole with a mass of detail. A further and more 
exhaustive study of the point involved was the 
immediate result of this abortive attempt. It was 
embodied in the essay entitled "Die Wibelungen 

— Weltgeschichte aus der Saga" (The Wibelungs 

— World History from the Saga), written in 1848, 
published in 1850. In this he undertakes a dis- 
cussion of the part tradition has played in the 
history of the world, and attempts to show how 
history and mythology agree in certain elementary 



facts. In " The Flying Dutchman " he had first 
come to feel how music should be evolved from 
the situations and requirements of the action upon 
the stage. With " Tannhauser " a broader con- 
ception of the musical drama had taken shape in 
his mind, a more appropriate fitting of the music 
to the poetical and dramatic content; and in 
*' Lohengrin " he had made a still further advance 
in this direction. The conception of " The Ring 
of the Nibelung " was the next step in his artistic 
development, attained only after philosophic re- 
flection and gradual elaboration of artistic and 
theoretical premises. The revolutionary and 
epoch-making ideas which so mightily stirred his 
mind and found their embodiment in this work, 
were formulated and liberated in a series of great 
essays published in the course of the next few 
years, for a considerable period interrupting his 
purely musical work. They expounded the theo- 
ries upon which he was proceeding, and they 
express, as perhaps has been expressed by no 
other creative artist, the great underlying prin- 
ciples, the aesthetic foundations, upon which he 
built. "Art and Revolution'' (1849), "The Art 
Work of the Future," "Art and Climate" (1850), 
"Opera and Drama" (1852), especially the last, 
gave the most detailed and comprehensive utter- 
ance to the new ideas that were seething in his 





^ "I SHALL employ my time in setting to music 
/ my latest German drama, * The Death of Siegfried/ 
/ Within half a year I shall send you the opera 
j complete." These were the words in which Wag- 
\ ner first notified to his friend Franz Liszt, in June, 
\ 1849, the new project for an opera which he had 
\ in mind. Twenty-five years were to pass, how- 
\ever, and many vicissitudes were to befall the ( / 
composer before the project was to reach its com- 9^ 
pletion-S^^nd the plan itself was to undergo a 
striking' process of transformation and develop- 
ment. The tenacity with which the composer 
adhered to his own ideals, and the unfaltering 
courage and conviction with which he kept to 
his self-appointed path, are a part of one of the 
most remarkable chapters of artistic biography. 

The drama based on the Siegfried legends that 
had occurred to Wagner while he was at work on 
"Lohengrin" he intended to call "Siegfried's 
Death." It was to embrace in a general way 
that portion of the story now told in "The Dusk 
of the Gods." He began the poem in 1848, and 
finished it in the autumn of that year, having first 


The Ring of the Nibelung 

formulated its bearing in an essay entitled "The 
Nibelung Myth as Sketch for a Drama." This 
dramatic poem in its j&rst form, was never set to 
music. He soon found that it was impossible to 
condense into a single drama the story of the 
hero's death and the causes that led to it; and his 
decision resulted in many changes of the outlines 
of his plan and revisions of its details. His first 
intention was to precede "Siegfried's Death" with 
a preliminary drama, "Young Siegfried" — so 
he wrote to Liszt in 1851, sajdng that, "in it 
everything that in * Siegfried's Death' was either 
narrated or more or less taken for granted, was to 
be shown in bold and vivid outline by means of 
actual representation.^ But again he found that 
he had not calculated sufficiently on the develop- 
ment of his material. He writes in the same 
letter to Liszt thus: 

The "Young Siegfried" as a separate entity, cannot 
produce its proper and sure impression until it occu- 
pies its necessary place in a complete whole, a place to 
which I now assign it, together with " Siegfried's Death," 
in my newly designed plan. . . . That plan extends to 
three dramas: i. The "Valkyrie"; 2. "Young Siegfried"; 
3. "Siegfried's Death." In order to give everything com- 
pletely, these three dramas must be preceded by a grand 
introductory play, "The Rape of the Rhine Gold." The 
object is the complete representation of everything in re- 
gard to this rape: the origin of the Nibelung treasure, the 
possession of that treasure by Wotan, and the curse of 
Alberich, which in "Young Siegfried" occur in the form 
of a narrative. By the distinctness of representation which 
is thus made possible and which, at the same time, does 

* " Correspondence of Wagner and Liszt," translated by Francis 
Hue£Fer, vol. i, p. 170. 


The Composition of the Trilogy 

away with everything in the nature of a lengthy narrative, 
or at least condenses it in a few pregnant movements, I gain 
suflScient space to intensify the wealth of relations, while in 
the previous semi-epical mode of treatment I was com- 
pelled to cut down and enfeeble all this. 

In the meantime, Wagner's personal fortunes 
had undergone deplorable vicissitudes. The pe- 
riod of the composition of "The Ring of the 
Nibelung" coincides with the most stormy, dis- 
tressful, and disheartening years of his kaleido- 
scopic career. They were years of exciting 
adventure, personal danger, actual need, and an 
intellectual isolation that is brought only into 
greater relief by the noble and beautiful sympathy 
and support given him by a very few devoted 
friends. He had already got so far as to j&nish the 
poem of his first conceived Siegfried drama, when, 
in 1849, while he was still Kapellmeister, or conduc- 
tor, of the Royal Opera of Dresden, the revolution 
came, in which he felt an active sympathy, and 
in favor of which he wrote and spoke. There 
was an outbreak, and the revolutionaries were put 
to flight. Among those who fled was Wagner; 
and his flight was soon followed by a decree of 
banishment from German territory. He went to 
Zurich, where he spent the next ensuing years. 
Here he h'ved often in great embarrassment for 
the needful things of life, and in profound depres- 
sion of spirits. He received assistance and en- 
couragement from Franz Liszt, great pianist and 
great musician, then conductor of the Grand 
Ducal court at Weimar, whose appreciation of 
Wagner's great qualities and devoted friendship 


The Ring of the Nibelung 

to him form one of the most beautiful episodes in 
the history of art. He was also later sympatheti- 
cally received by Otto Wesendonck and his wife, 
music lovers and admirers of his work, who pro- 
vided him with a chalet overlooking the lake, where 
he lived and labored. 

He made a brief visit to Paris, to endeavor 
once more to secure the performance of some of 
his operas. FaiUng in this, he returned to Zurich, 
where he found himself absolutely without means, 
except for the benefactions of Liszt and a few 
others to whom he was not backward in appeal- 
ing. His ^ ' Lohengrin ' ' had not yet been produced, 
and one of the few gleams of hope that came to 
him was the news of its performance in Weimar, 
in 1850, through the eflforts of the devoted Liszt. 
He wished to begin work on his "Siegfried" 
drama; the music, he wrote Liszt in August, 1850, 
was "vibrating through all his nerves''; but a 
year or more was to pass, in which he "cleared 
his mind,'' as he expressed it, by the writing of 
the vigorous theoretical essays that we have men- 
tioned. In the spring of 1851, after waiting for 
the bright, sunny weather that he needed to spur 
him on, he began serious work on the "Young 

He wrought with burning enthusiasm and an 
intense belief in what he was doing. In June, of 
1851, he had completed the poem. "Lord, how 
delighted I am with ^ Young Siegfried'!" he wrote 
to Liszt in July; and the next month he intended 
to "rush at the music." But he found much re- 
vision necessary to settle the relations of the newly 


The Composition of the Trilogy 

adjusted scheme. We find him still working on 
it in November, 1852, as he writes to Uhlig, 
ecstatically exclaiming that, when he has finished, 
"the whole will be — I am impudent enough to 
say it — the greatest poem ever written!'' The 
chronological sequence of his work is a little con- 
fused, and difficult to follow in his letters, owing 
to the frequent revisions it underwent. In De- 
cember, 1852, he reports to Ferdinand Heine that 
he has just finished his great "Nibelung" poem. 
Much work on the music of the two Siegfried 
dramas had already been done; but much had to 
be done over again. In November, 1853, he 
began work on the music for "The Rhine Gold." 
He finished the sketch in January of the next 
year, and the instrumentation at the end of May. 
"The Valkyrie" music he began in June, 1854: 
"it deliciously pervades aU my limbs," he wrote. 
His work on it was interrupted by the journey 
he made in that year to London to conduct the 
concerts of the Philharmonic Society. Not tiU 
April, 1856, could he report to his faithful friends 
the completion of it — and it turned out "re- 
markably beautiful," as he confided to Wilhelm 
Fischer; he had done "nothing like the first act, 
or approaching it, before," he wrote to Liszt. 
The whole was "the most tragic he had ever 

Illness and despondency delayed its completion. 
Wagner suflFered continually from erysipelas, and 
his letters of this period are full of the gloom that 
his dejection and inability to carry on sustained 
work caused him. At this time he received an 


The Ring of the Nibelung 

oflFer from New York to come to America to con- 
duct a series of concerts, which would have brought 
him $10,000; but he could not interrupt his work 
to make money. It would be absurd to sacrifice 
his best vital powers, he declared, even in his 
helpless pecuniary position, to so miserable a pur- 
pose. " Good heavens! such sums as I might earn 
in America people ought to give me, without ask- 
ing anything in return, beyond what I am actu- 
ally doing, and which is the best I can do." 
Nevertheless, it was a terrible temptation; and a 
little later it would have been perhaps a worse 

The composer began the music for the new 
"Siegfried" in January, 1857, and in May he 
could write to Liszt that the first act was done, 
written in the little villa that the Wesendoncks 
had put at his disposal near their own country 
house. Here was a great amelioration of his 
physical surroundings; but his discouragement at 
the prospects for the great work he was engaged 
on had now reached the breaking point. Negotia- 
tions with the firm of Breitkopf and Hartel for 
publishing it had been unsuccessful, even with 
the aid of Liszt's powerful influence. Wagner 
wrote to this 'devoted friend in June, 1857, that 
he had determined to abandon his "headstrong 
design " of completing the * * Nibelungen . " "I have 
led my ^ Young Siegfried ' to a beautiful forest soli- 
tude, and there have left him under a linden tree, 
and take leave of him with heartfelt tears." He 
had resolved to complete "Tristan and Isolde" 
"on a moderate scale" so as to make its per- 


The Composition of the Trilogy 

f ormance easier in the lesser German theaters — 
Heaven save the mark ! — and also formed the 
strange purpose of sending it to Rio Janeiro to 
have it produced there in an Italian, translation. 
The decision cost him many pangs, for he was at 
the summit of his musical inspiration when he 
put aside "Siegfried" in the middle of the second 
act; but he was wearied of "piling up one silent 
score upon another," and wished to see some 

The next following years were years of distress 
and wandering. In i860, the edict of banishment 
against Wagner was cancelled, and he was allowed 
to return to Germany. In various German cities 
and in Paris he occupied himself with fruitless en- 
deavors to secure performances of his works — 
his attempts in Paris resulting in the famous 
j&asco of "Tannhauser," in 186 1. He also de- 
voted himself to the completion of "The Master- 
singers of Nuremberg," his only comic opera 
which, it is worthy of note, was the fruit of the 
darkest period of his life. He was harassed by 
creditors, persecuted and ridiculed by the news- 
paper critics, neglected by the managers, and un- 
able to bring his work before any portion of the 
public that could understand it. He became a 
prey to despair. Finally, while he was working 
on the immortal music of "The Mastersingers " 
in a refuge at Zurich, provided for him by one of 
his few loyal friends,' he heard that his Viennese 
creditors were on his track, and took a hasty 
flight. But it was the darkest hour before the 


The Ring of the Nibelung 

Young Ludwig II had just ascended the throne 
of Bavaria, a music-loving prince with high ideals 
as to a prince's duty in forwarding art. He knew 
Wagner's work and admired it. He sent a mes- 
senger to j&nd him and to induce him to come to 
Munich, there to work undisturbed under his own 
royal protection and encouragement. He gave 
him a villa, where he was to finish his long aban- 
doned "Nibelung" Trilogy; and, best of all, he 
oflFered him the splendid resources of the court 
opera for the proper production of his works under 
his own direction. In the spring of 1864, Wagner 
entered into the enjoyment of these blessings. 
"Tristan" was produced in 1865, and in 1868, 
"The Mastersingers." The intervening years, 
however, were troublous. A strong feeling was 
fomented in Munich against Wagner and the 
young king's outlay on his behalf, and he was 
obliged to leave the capital, ultimately settling in 
Bayreuth. But Ludwig's support was unswerv- 
ing, and \ns desire to hear the yet unperformed 
"Nibelung" dramas, intense. "The Rhine Gold" 
was produced at the Royal Opera in 1869, and 
"The Valkyrie" in 1870, but against Wagner's 
wishes and without his cooperation; and as the 
preparations were insufficient, the works were not 
fairly represented, and the success was small. 
Wagner's long cherished plans for a special festi- 
val theater expressly for the performance of his 
works — plans on which he had been constantly 
harping in the old dark days — were in the way 
of fulfillment. The famous festival playhouse at 
Bayreuth was their outcome. It was begun in 


The Composition of the Trilogy 

1872. The project met with many financial diflGi- 
culties, which it took years of disheartening toil 
on the part of the composer and his friends to 
overcome. His work on the rest of the "Nibe- 
lung" dramas had been going on under the new 
and favorable conditions in which Wagner found 
himself. He had again taken up "Siegfried," 
directiy upon his arrival in Munich, in 1864, after 
an interruption of seven years, and after another 
interruption during which he finished "The Mas- 
tersingers," he finished the second act in June, 
1865, and the third in 1869. He began the music 
of "The Dusk of the Gods'' in 1B70, while he 
was sojourning at Lucerne, whither he had gone 
after his retirement from Munich to relieve the 
king of embarrassment. He completed it in Bay- 
reuth in November, 1874. The next two years 
were consumed in the anxious eflforts to raise 
money for the new festival playhouse. Though 
they were only partially successful, the whole Tri- 
logy was put into rehearsal in 1875. The best 
singers of Germany responded to the master's 
appeal, and many of the finest orchestral players 
from various opera hou-ses were gathered for 
the orchestra. Hans Richter, one of the most 
devoted of Wagner's followers, was the conductor, 
but Wagner himself directed and inspired all the 
rehearsals. The great day came on August 13, 
1876, when the festival playhouse was opened 
with the first production of "The Rhine Gold" as 
the prelude to the Trilogy as a whole. A great 
and distinguished assemblage of musicians, crit- 
ics, and amateurs from almost all the countries 


The Ring of the Nibelung 

of the globe, was present, and the event was ob- 
served and chronicled as of the epoch-making im- 
portance that it truly was. "The Valkyrie" was 
given on August 13, "Siegfried," on August 16, 
"The Dusk of the Gods," on August 17. The 
last two were heard for the first time, the first two 
having been performed separately against Wag- 
ner's wishes and intentions, as before mentioned, 
in Munich. Thus were crowned the eflforts and 
aspirations of more than a quarter of a century 
in Wagner's Ufe, and thus was first made known 
what is imdoubtedly his supreme achievement in 

The first performances in America of the 
dramas constituting "The Ring of the Nibelung," 
were as follows: 

"The Rhine Gold: " At the Metropolitan Opera 
House, New York, January 4, 1889, under the 
direction of Anton Seidl. 

"The Valkyrie:" At the Academy of Music, 
New York, April 2, 1877, under the direction of 
Adolf Neuendorif . 

"Siegfried:" At the Metropolitan Opera House, 
New York, November 9, 1887, imder the direc- 
tion of Anton Seidl. 

"The Dusk of the Gods:" At the Metropolitan 
Opera House, New York, Januaiy 25, 1888, imder 
the direction of Anton Seidl. 


The Sources of the Trilogy 


The Siegfried legend is a primeval heritage of 
the Teutonic races, brought by them from the 
home of the Aryan people. It is impossible here 
to go into an examination of what the philologers 
and students of mythology have discovered about 
it and theorized about it. It is enough to say that, 
though it dealt originally with a mythical hero, 
and in this form was well known and' popular by 
the fifth century, at about that time it became in- 
volved with a certain historical element and 
thereby modified. The latte r part of th e Sieg- 
fried story is connected^with the mvasion of^.the 
Huns an d the death of Atti JaTTh this form the 
story traveled north and became popular with 
the Scandinavian peoples, undergoing, naturally 
enough, further modifications in its travels and 
taking on special features characteristic of North- 
em influence. There are, thus, two forms in 
which this legend or series of legends are pre- 
served: the German and the Scandinavian. In 
Germany the legends, after centuries of traditional 
transmission by bards and minstrels, were em- 
bodied finally in the "Nibelungenlied," a poem 
dating from the latter half of the twelfth century, 
that has its permanent place in literature as the 
national epic of the German peoples. This poem 
shows great transformations in the legends it re- 
counts — a loss of the earlier mythical elements, a 
development of the historical traits. The earlier 
incidents of the hero's career are forgotten or 
merely mentioned; the later are more circumstan- 

The Ring of the Nibelung 

tially told. The mythical features still survived 
by oral tradition, in folk tales. They were chiefly 
preserved, however, in the written records that 
were made of the legends in the Scandinavian 
countries — the several "Sagas": the Volsunga 
Saga, the Thidrek Saga and others, and in the 
Icelandic Eddas. These ancient writings, the 
"Nibelungenlied,'^ the Sagas, and the two Eddas, 
are the sources from which Wagner derived his 
conception of the Nibelungen dramas. They tell 
the story with many differences and divergences, 
not only of incident and detail, but also of plan 
and design, of characters involved, of motive and 
shaping forces. The characters are innumerable, 
the narratives lavish in incidents. 

From these diverse sources Wagner appropri- 
ated the material of his great Trilogy; but with 
the prescience of a philosopher, the far-seeing 
vision of a poet, the instinct of a dramatist. He 
was concerned to make his work exhibit the work- 
ings of fate through the medium and motives of 
human attributes; to express a philosophical view 
of Kfe in terms of the drama, as the Greeks did in 
tragedy. In working and shaping that material 
Wagner eliminated much, elaborated much, 
charged his personages and their actions with a 
new significance unknown to the old myth-makers 
and recounters of legends. He has chosen but a 
few of the people of the ancient tales to carry on 
the burden of his action, and he has in many 
cases altered the posture of circumstances, the 
succession of incidents and the interrelation of 
persons and events. A comparison of his work 



The Sources of the Trilogy 

with that of the huge mass of fable shows how it 
has been transformed and transfigured by the 
touch of a great master. 

The Scandinavian bards, having derived many 
or most of their ideas from Germany, presented 
them saturated with the Norse spirit, and pro- 
jected them against a background of Norse myth- 
ology. The Vo lsunga Saga tells of Volsung, the 
son of Rerir, wEowastheson of Sigi, who was the 
son of Odin, the god. Volsung was a great king, 
with ten sons and one daughter. He lived in a 
palace built around an oak tree, called the Bran- 
stock, whose branches pierced the roof. The 
eldest son and daughter were twins, Sigmund and 
Signy. King Siggeir, of Gothland, wedded Signy; 
to the marriage feast came an old man, one eyed, 
who thrust a sword into the Branstock that none 
could draw forth, till Sigmund did it. At this 
Siggeir was jealous, and having offered money for 
the sword in vain, became angry. When he re- 
turned to his own land with Signy, he invited 
Volsung and his sons to visit him; and when they 
came, fell upon them, slew Volsung and left his 
sons in the woods to be devoured by wolves. 
Sigmund escaped and dwelt there. Siggeir 
thought all the Volsungs were dead, but Signy, 
desiring to avenge their slaughter, and knowing of 
Sigmund's escape, went, transformed by a witch's 
power, to Sigmund's hut. She lay with him for 
three nights, and bore a son whom she called 
Sinfjotli. When he was grown, she sent him to 
live with Sigmund. The two went to Siggeir's 
hall and slew him, and then Signy, revealing the 


The Ring of the Nibelung 

fact that Sinf jotli was a full-blooded Volsung, died 
with her husband. 

Sigmund married Borghild, who poisoned Sinf- 
jotli^ wherefore he put her away, and married 
Hjordis, whom Lyngi, son of Hunding, had wooed 
in vain. So L)mgi made war on them, and 
Sigmund did great deeds, but his sword was 
broken on the spear of an old, one-eyed man, and 
he was killed. Dying, he gave the pieces of his 
sword to Hjordis, to give to her unborn son, who 
would be the noblest and greatest of the Volsungs. 
That son, born at the court of the Danish king, 
was called Sigurd. He grew up at court under 
the tutelage of Regin, a wise and famous smith. 
One day he sent Sigurd to the woods to choose 
a horse, which he did under the direction of an 
old man with one eye; the horse he chose was 
Grani, of the strain of Odin's stables. Then 
Regin told him of a dragon, Fafnir, who had 
measureless stores of gold, which he bade him go 
and win for himself. This was the story of this 
gold : Hreidmar had three sons, Fafnir, Otter, and 
Regin. Otter used to take the form of an otter, 
and so catch fish. One day Odin, Honir, and 
Loki passed by, and Loki threw a stone and 
killed the otter. He skinned it and they went to 
the house of Hreidmar, who recognized the skin, 
and demanded a ransom that should consist of as 
much gold as would fill the skin and cover it 
standing upright. The dwarf, Andvari, dwelling 
in the lake, had great stores of gold ; so Loki went 
back and caught the dwarf as he was swimming 
in the form of a pike, and would not release him 


The Sources of the Trilogy 

fill he had given him all his gold and the ring, 
by whose power the gold was increased. Andvari, 
in rage, cursed the gold and the ring, so that 
they should bring death on everyone who pos- 
sessed them. This gold Loki then took to Hreid- 
mir, and with it they tried to cover the otter skin; 
but he saw one hair qf the otter's muzzle, to cover * 
which they must add the ring. Loki told of the 
curse and bade them beware; and immediately it 
was operative, for Fafnir slew his father for the 
gold, and Regin, who was the other son, got 
nothing of it. Fafnir took the shape of a great 
dragon and guarded the treasure. 

Having learned this, Sigurd bade Regin forge a 
sword with which he would slay the dragon and 
avenge him; but Regin could forge no sword that 
Sigurd did not immediately break. Then Sigurd 
went to his mother and got from her the frag- 
ments of his father's sword, which Regin forg^ 
into the wonderful weapon called Gram, the best 
of all swords. But before attacking the dragon, 
Sigurd went forth to fight the sons of Hunding, 
to avenge his father's death. Then Regin and 
Sigurd went to slay Fafnir; but Regin was treach- 
erous, and sought to kill Sigurd and win the 
treasure for himself. The dragon slain, Sigurd 
accidentally touched his blood, and when he laid 
his finger to his mouth, he understood the birds 
chattering of Regin's treachery, and of how he 
should kill Regin, and of the ring of fire around 
Hindfell, and of Br)aihild who slept within it. 
Then he drew his sword and smote off Regin's 
head, and heaping Fafnir's gold upon Grani, rode 



4 J 

The Ring of the Nibelung 

forth to Hindfell, where he penetrated the fiery 
barrier and found the maid sleeping. He waked 
her and she knew him, and told him that she was 
Odin's child, a Valk)nie; and because she had 
disobeyed Odin and chosen for the victory one 
whom he had willed to be slain, Odin had put 
her into a magic slumber and fated her to become 
a mortal woman, and to wed; but that she had 
vowed to wed only one who had known no fear. 
She taught him all her wisdom and they plighted 
their faith, for which he gave her Andvari's ring. 
When he went forth again he reached the realm 
of Giuki, who ruled south of the Rhine, and who 
had a wife, Grimhild, skilled in magic, and three 
sons, Gunnar, Hogni, and Guttorm, and one 
daughter, Gudrun. There he abode many days, 
and Grimhild mixed a magic drink, which when 
Sigurd tasted, he forgot Brynhild and his plighted 
troth. He swore blood-brotherhood with Gunnar 
and Hogni, and, in accordance with Grimhild's 
purpose, wedded Gudrun, and dwelt in the hall 
of the Niflungs. Then Grimhild urged her son 
Gunnar to win Brynhild, and Gunnar, Hogni, and 
Sigurd rode forth to Hindfell. Gunnar could not 
enter the ring of fire, but he changed shapes with 
Sigurd, as Grimhild had taught them how to do, 
and Sigurd, in his semblance, rode through the 
flames and won Brynhild for Gunnar's wife. 
For she had sworn to wed him who could pierce 
that circle of fire, though she deemed that none 
but Sigurd could do this. He took from her 
Andvari's ring and her girdle, and gave them to 
Gudrun, and Br5mhild went to the land of the 


The Sources of the Trilogy 

Niflungs as Gunnar's wife. And when the wed- 
ding feast was over, Sigurd remembered all, but 
said nothing. Later, when the two women fell 
into a dispute as to whose husband was the 
greater, Gudrun, in her anger, disclosed the 
secret, how Sigurd had won Brynhild for Gunnar. 
Br5mhild in wrath conspired with Gunnar and 
Hogni to kill Sigurd; but they were restrained by 
their oath of blood-brotherhood, so Guttorm, who 
had not taken that oath, did the deed, and killed 
Sigurd as he lay asleep in his bed. Brynhild bade 
Gunnar build a funeral pyre and laid herself on 
it beside Sigurd's body, and, she having killed 
herself with a sword, they were burned together. 

The rest of the Saga tells how Gudrun wedded 
Atli, Attila, the Hun, of history — and went with 
him to his own land; and how Atli schemed to 
get possession of the treasure, but Gunnar and 
Hogni threw the gold into the Rhine, ior which 
they were slain by the avaricious king. And the 
end was the vengeance of Gudrun, through her 
brother, Hogni's son, Nifiung, and her miracu- 
lous transportation to the land of Jonakr, whom 
she wedded and to whom she bore three sons. 

The Thidrek Saga tells a similar story, and is 
evidently derived from the same source as the 
Volsunga Saga; yet there are many variations in 
important particulars, the most significant of 
which relates to Sigurd's birth and bringing up, 
and to the origin and disposition of the treasure. 

The Nibelungenlied is less primitive in its char- • 
acter than either of these Sagas, and has much in 
relation to Attila and the Burgundian kings, and 


The Ring of the Nibelung 

little m relation to the mythological features that 
appear in the Scandinavian stories of Siegfried. 
In this, Siegfried, son of King Sigmund and Sieg- 
hnde who reigned in the Rhenish Netherlands, 
sets out to win for his wife the beautiful Kriemhild, 
dwelling at Worms. Her brother Gunther re- 
fused to grant him her hand, but offered him hos- 
pitality. None knew him but Hagen, one of the 
vassals, who had heard how Siegfried had won 
the Nibelung Hoard from the brothers Schilbung 
and Nibelung. They had asked Siegfried to 
divide it for them, and offered him the good 
sword Balmung in payment. But, being dissat- 
isfied with his award, they fell upon him; so 
Siegfried slew them, and having also overthrown 
Alberich and won from 'him the Tarnhelm, he 
took the hoard for himself and left it in the care 
of Alberich, who had sworn fidelity to him. Now 
Gunther wished for his wife, the beautiful Brun- 
hild, queen of Island, and Siegfried promised to 
help him if Gunther would give him Kriem- 
hild to wife; and they swore tlus. Brunhild was 
the strongest of women, and would be won only 
in trials of strength. Siegfried, posing as his 
friend's vassal, won her by the aid of the Tarn- 
helm, in the guise of Gunther, who thereupon 
married her, and Siegfried must overcome Brun- 
hild on her wedding night, in behalf of Gunther 
(as he does in the Thidrek Saga). Brunhild 
deemed it unworthy that her husband should wed 
his sister to a vassal, and spoke scornful words to 
Kriemhild. Thereupon the latter retorted that 
Siegfried was no vassal, and furthermore that 


The Sources of the Trilogy 

he, and not Gunther, had been her first husband, 
showing as proof the ring he had taken from her. 
So Brunhild, finding she had been deceived, de- 
manded vengeance on Siegfried, and Hagen swore 
to gain it for her. Having learned from Kriem- 
hild the one vulnerable spot on Siegfried's body, 
Hagen killed him with a spear as they were stoop- 
ing to drink from a spring on a hunting party. 
The rest is a long and bloody story of Kriem- 
hild's revenge and her attempts to get the Nibe- 
lung gold from Hagen, who had locked it up in 
the treasure chamber and kept the keys. 

There are other relations of the Siegfried stories 
in various forms and fragments, as in the Ice- 
landic Eddas, certain other Sagas, and the Ger- 
man "Heldenbuch" or "Book of Heroes." It 
was from the Volsunga Saga, however, and from 
some stories in the Eddas that Wagner derived 
the most of his material. He ilso employed 
many of the features and characters of the Norse 
mythology that are not specifically included in 
the stories, though they are furnished by the 
Eddas as a whole. He exercised even here, the 
right of the poet, and gave the gods, dwarfs, and 
giants, certain qualities and relations to various 
incidents in the legends that they do not have in 
the ancient myths. The gods in this cosmogony 
are not omnipotent nor omniscient, but submitted 
to the power of fate, dominant over all the world. 
Inevitable destruction loomed before them, which 
they could postpone but could not finally avert. 
In the Scandinavian myths the gods were in no 
wise connected with the Nibelung hoard. Not 


The Ring of the Nibelung 

from it came their inevitable day of reckoning, 
but from other forces; and it is one of Wagner's 
master strokes that made their downfall a result 
of their trafficking with the ill-fated treasure — a 
stroke that at once put a new moral force into 
the story. 

Wotan rules by conquest and by treaties, the 
records of which are carved upon the haft of his 
spear, cut from the trunk of the World Ash. One 
of his eyes he has lost, pa)dng it as a toll for a 
draught from the spring of knowledge beneath 
that tree. He has begotten of an earthly mother, 
all-wise Erda, a sisterhood of wish-maidens, Val- 
kyries, who summon to Valhalla the spirits of 
heroes slain in battle. There they dwell in feast- 
ing, waiting to aid him in the final conflict with 
the enemies of the gods. His spouse is Fricka, 
upholder of the marriage law, a very Juno in 
principles and temper. Freia is the goddess of 
love and of endless youth, the golden apples from 
whose garden give immortality to the gods. Loge 
is the spirit of evil and of trickery, of wonder- 
ful cunning and restless activity, whose outward 
form was fire and the flickering of flame. The 
Noms are daughters of Erda, who spin the strands 
of fate. 

Upon the earth's surface dwelt the giants, tra- 
ditional enemies of the gods, strong but dull- 
witted, whom Wotan has hired to build Valhalla. 
In the earth's dark recesses dwell the dwarfs, 
smiths, and makers of weapons. Wotan shares 
the propensities of Olympian Jove to wander upon 
the earth; and it is in one of these wanderings 


Wagner's Musical and Dramatic System 

that as Walse he begot the twin brother and sister, 
who in turn begot the Volsung hero, Siegfried. 



According to Wagner's theories, the musical 
drama is the fitting expression of larger ethical 
ideas, and of the national spirit in art; he finds in 
the Teutonic myths and immemorial legends the 
most appropriate material for the embodiment of 
these ideals and this spirit; and in the legendary 
personages peopling these legends he discovers 
figures typical of humanity and human charac- 
ters and t)^es, passions, impulses, and aspirations, 
to represent in the broadest and most general way 
the eternal verities. Such a musical drama should 
be based on a complete reversal of the conception 
of opera hitherto prevailing. It should involve a 
perfect cooperation between all the factors that 
enter into stage representation, and a mutual sur- 
render of some of the exclusive rights of each, to 
the attainment of a complete and harmonious 
blending into one larger whole. In the older con- 
ception of opera, the drama, such as it was, 
existed chiefly for the sake of the music. Action 
on the stage was an excuse for music, a peg upon 
which it could be hung at the pleasure of com- 
posers and for the benefit of the singers of airs, 
duets, ensemble pieces, and choruses. According 
to Wagner, the error in this form of opera lay in 
the fact that one of the means of expression, the 
music, was made the object; and that the object 


The Ring of the Nibelung 

of the expression, the drama, was made the 
means. He demanded that the dramatic idea 
should be made the chief thing, and that music 
should be but one of the means of expressing and 
enforcing it. This and the others, — poetic dic- 
tion, action, gesture, declamation, scenic art, and 
all the accessories that go to make up the stage 
picture, — should be welded together into one 
homogeneous whole. 

Herein was involved a different conception of the 
function of music from that which composers had 
hitherto held for dramatic purposes. This 
had been based on the forms and patterns that 
had been developed in instrumental music and in 
songs — definitely recurring phrases and periods, 
cadences, and closes, regular and balanced in 
structure, as in a complete tune or air. Operas 
of the older sort are composed of such airs, of 
duets, and other concerted pieces, and of choruses, 
all formed on the same model with a more or less 
subordinated instrumental accompaniment. These 
are connected by declamatory passages called reci- 
tatives, with usually the baldest kind of harmonic 
support from the instruments. Wagner devised 
a wholly different musical system. The characters 
of the drama declaim their lines in a sort of semi- 
melodious speech, heightened and intensified in 
its significance by its musical quality, the so- 
called "endless melody," whose contour is con- 
stantly dependent upon the words and the emo- 
tions and the mood to be expressed. The poem 
is written not in rhymed or metrical verse, but in 
a kind of free, measured, rhythm. It is, however, 


Wagner's Musical and Dramatic System 

alliterative verse, fashioned after old Teutonic and 
Scandinavian models, its chief characteristic being 
the recurrence of initial sounds in certain words 
of each line, and a sort of irregular but power- 
fully leaping rhythm. 

Beneath and aroimd the vocal declamation flows 
an increasing stream of the many-voiced orchestra, 
to which is entrusted the chief burden of the 
musical expression. It follows the development 
of the dramatic action and interprets all that goes 
on upon the stage with a marvelous potency and 
unending variety of resource. It is here, in fact, 
that Wagner's originality achieved some of its 
greatest results. 

This orchestral part is largely built up out of 
a great number of characteristic themes, repre- 
sentative or "leading" motives as they have been 
called, the use of which is one of the most strik- 
ing features of his music. It is one which is 
really his own, however dimly it may have been 
suggested or foreshadowed by some of his prede- 
cessors. None of them ever had the faintest con- 
ception of the symphonic emplo)Tiient of such 
themes as almost the sole musical material of a 
whole opera, or of developing from them the 
living, palpitating organism that Wagner devel- 
oped. These themes are short musical passages 
or phrases, whose chief significance may be in 
their melodic outline, or quite as much in their 
harmonic substance and sequences; pregnant, pic- 
turesque, suggestive in both aspects; always strik- 
ing and individual, not always beautiful, but al- 
ways intensely characteristic and expressive, and 


The Ring of the Nibelung 

of a haunting power, so that, once impressed on 
the listener's mind, they are ineradicable. They 
are what musicians call "plastic" — they lend 
themselves remarkably to all the combinations, 
developments, changes, and elaborations by means 
of which the composer spins his wonderful orches- 
tral web of infinite and ever-changing pattern, 
retaining homogeneity and logical cogency through 
all the play of imagination to which they are 

Each of these themes is associated with some 
specific meaning and charged with a certain emo- 
tional color. Some are significant of personages 
in the drama; sometimes there are several to sug- 
gest different aspects of the same personages, as 
of Siegfried and Brunnhilde and Wotan; or their 
different relations and activities; some relate to 
natural powers and elements, as fire and water; 
some to the agencies and the interacting play of 
ethical forces; some to the passions, the loves and 
hates, the wickedness and the beneficent influence 
of men and women, gods and dwarfs; some to 
things, as the ring and the sword and the tarn- 
helm. But there is nothing mechanical in their 
use by Wagner; they do not automatically appear 
and disappear in the score, merely with the appear- 
ance and disappearance of men and things upon 
the stage. There is always some suggestive ref- 
erence, some implication of their inner relation 
with the scheme of things. Many of them, as 
will be seen, are closely interrelated, not only in 
meaning, but also, as a logical consequence, in 
form. Some are developed, one from another, 


Wagner's Musical and Dramatic System 

by enlargement or diminution, or by harmonic 
change, enrichment or simplification ; or by rhyth- 
mical transformation ; and frequently two or more 
are joined together with a specialized meaning. 
But in all circumstances and at all points they are 
made subservient to the dramatic expression. 
Here Wagner's inventiveness and inexhaustible 
fecundity of melodic ideas reach their highest 
power. The student must constantly marvel at 
the never-failing appositeness of the musical 
embodiment of the dramatic situation, the power 
of the music to denote character, motives, the 
passions, sentiments, feelings, and impulses of the 
personages upon the stage; to set before us maj- 
esty and meanness, dignity, terror, anger; to cre- 
ate an atmosphere, to transport the imagination 
to glimmering depths of water, stormy mountain 
peaks, sun-flecked forest glades, the gloom of 
night, the mellowing radiance of afternoon. In 
all its bearings the situation is illustrated by music 
heightening and completing, through the ear, the 
effects presented to the eye. The mood is fixed, 
the senses of the listener, and through them his 
whole intellectual and emotional state, are en- 
chained and held captive to the idea that the 
dramatist is setting forth. As Mr. Ernest New- 
man says: * 

Wagner saw human life and character, the outward 
world, the interplay of force with force, of element with 
element, all in terms of music. Those who are acquainted 
with his scores stand astonished at the rare felicity of 
some of his conceptions, his power to sketch character in a 

* " A Study of Wagner," p. 237. 


The Ring of the Nibelung 

musical phrase, to write descriptive music — such as the 
forest scene in "Siegfried" or the fire music in "The 
Valk)Tie" — that can only be described as marvellous in 
its pictorial quality. 

Of the greatest importance in Wagner's scores 
are the new harmonic combinations, the new emo- 
tional and poetic power he gained through them; 
and the subtle, rich, and highly developed orches- 
tral coloring that he employs. Both of these are 
developments of the art that he carried far beyond 
the point that any of his predecessors had reached, 
however much he may have benefited as to orches- 
tration from the work of Berlioz and Liszt. Into 
neither is it possible to enter more fully here; but 
quoting again from Mr. Newman, we may see, 
with him, "the unerring color sense that gives 
the 'inevitable' quality to his orchestration — 
gives us the feeUng that ear and eye are inter- 
changing their functions, that the music of the 
orchestra is only another aspect of the person or 
the scene upon the stage." 
H This musical fabric is entirely intelligible in 

] and of itself, as a part of the drama. It was Wag- 
ner's intention that it should be so, and that his 
audiences should not need a special knowledge of 
music to gain the right impression from his musi- 
cal dramas. But the enjoyment and understand- 
ing of any highly organized form of music are 
enhanced by a knowledge of its structure. The 
motives that Wagner devised for "The Ring of 
the Nibelung" will speak for themselves; but to 
those who will pursue the subject further to gain 
a more minute insight into Wagner's methods 


Wagner's Musical and Dramatic System 

and purposes, the following chapter is addressed. 
But before entering upon it, we cannot do better 
than to consider the warning words of Mr. Hen- 
derson : * 

If the guiding motives fail to create the proper emotional 
investiture . . . then they are valueless, even at Wagner's 
own rating, for he says that we must feel before we cap 
understand a drama. And we ourselves can readily see 
how useless it is to tell us of the specified meanings of 
sweet musical phrases if they do not, when heard, help to 
warm into a vitalizing glow the significance of the text 
and action. If they fail to do this, the organic union so 
ardently sought by Wagner does not exist. If they succeed, 
it matters not at all whether we know their names. 

To which may be added these further words : ^ 

Learn the text. By the text the music must be meas- 
ured. By the text the music must be understood. By the 
music the text is illuminated and made vital. But every 
measure of Wagner's music is explained by the poetry. 

Space will not serve to point out all the diver- 
gences that Wagner has made in his dramas from 
the legends as they are outlined. They are almost 
always in the direction of securing greater dramatic 
effectiveness and directness, or of enhancing the 
poetical suggestiveness. To begin with, the gold 
in the legends does not come from the Rhine; the 
Rhine is only its ultimate disposition, though in 
the Volsunga Saga it comes from Andvari, a 
dweller in the waters. Wagner has made the 
Nibelungs the dwarfs; in the legends they are the 
possessors of the treasure, the name seeming to 

^ " Richard Wagner," p. 191. ' P. 219. 


The Ring of the Nibelung 

be transferred with the thing. He has made the 
giants the builders of Valhalla, though in the 
Norse mythology the gods built it themselves. 
Thereby a valuable motive is at once introduced 
into the drama. A highly original and poetic 
idea is that which makes the renunciation of 
love the first requisite for him who would fashion 
the ring from the stolen gold and win dominion 
by its power. The method of pa)H[ng the gold to 
the giants by piling it up so as to hide Freia is 
Wagner's more beautiful version of the filling and 
covering of the otter skin — and how much more 
beautiful is the filling in of the ring to hide the 
gleam of Freia's eye, than to hide the hair of the 
otter's muzzle! The prophecy of Erda in "The 
Rhine Gold" bears directly upon Wotan's sin, 
though it has no such bearing in the Eddaic 
legend; and this is but an instance of how the 
poet has gathered all the strands of the legend to 
serve the higher purpose he had in view. 

"The Valkyrie" is largely Wagner's own poetic 
conception; he has taken some of the personages 
of the legends, but they stand in widely different 
relationships. Volsung is Wotan himself, not his 
descendant. Siegmund and Sieglinde are his own 
twin children; but the motive is changed from the 
vengeance, that rules in the Saga, to a process of 
fate. There is nothing in the legends to resemble 
Briinnhilde in much more than name. She is 
there Wotan's daughter; but Wagner gave her her 
momentous connection with Siegfried's parents, 
and endowed her with her glorious personality as 
goddess and mortal woman. Her scene with 


Wagner's Musical and Dramatic System 

Waltraute, pregnant with significance in the 
drama, is Wagner's; and the episode in which 
Siegfried is plied with Gutrune's magic draught in 
"The Dusk of the Gods," and of his return to 
Briinnhilde in Gunther's shape to gain her for 
his bride, is raised to a tragic power and intensity 
that have no parallel in the Saga or the German 
epic. The scenes and surroundings of * ' Siegfried ' ' 
are only in a general way suggested in the legends. 
Wagner has conceived them in a picturesque and 
poetic vein all his own, and has threaded them 
upon the motive of irrevocable destiny so that 
they proceed swiftly and logically to the denoue- 
ment. Here he has abandoned the Volsunga 
Saga, and has been guided by the Thidrek Saga, 
for the sake of the dramatic advantage it afforded 
him. In "The Dusk of the Gods " he has changed 
and compressed much from the Saga and the 
Nibelungenlied. The woman who appears in 
them as Gudrun and Kriemhild, and who is there 
far more important than Briinnhilde, is reduced 
to a pale and insignificant personage, a mere 
accessory of the plot. Gunther, too, is much re- 
duced in dignity; and Hagen plays a different and 
more sinister r61e in the drama than in the legend, 
where he acts solely out of loyalty to his sovereign's 
wife and his sovereign's honor, and has no rela- 
tion with Alberich. But greater than the sum of 
these and all the other details of legend, is the 
majestic sweep with which it carries out the 
ethical idea, and the seizing power with which it 
has all been transmuted into drama through 


The Ring of the Nibelung 


In "The Ring of the Nibelung'* is set forth the 
irresistible working of Fate to avenge the viola- 
tion of the moral law ; and, again, the victorious 
process of atonement and of redemption through 
love, whereby a new order is established. Wotan's 
lust for power, his endeavor to ward off the inevi- 
table end, starts him upon a course of wrong that 
brings a trail of evil consequences. Self-preserva- 
tion is the motive of his sin. The castle of Val- 
halla was for a bulwark to the gods against their 
enemies; for its building he had promised a price 
which he dared not pay — the goddess of youth 
whose loss would mean decay and death to the 
gods. In possessing himself of the gold stolen by 
Alberich he had again entered upon devious paths 
that should lead to his downfall. In wresting the 
gold from its rightful place in the Rhine's bed, 
Alberich let loose upon the world the curse that 
he himself pronounced upon it when it was wrested 
from him in turn. The possessor of the ring made 
of it would become the ruler of the world; but he 
would come equally under its fatal curse, he and 
all to whom the ring thereafter should pass. The 
curse, as Wagner said, could be annulled "only 
by the restoration of the gold robbed from nature 
and misused." 

Wotan is, in truth, if not the hero, at all events, 
the central figure of the Trilogy. Its story is the 
story of his efforts on behalf of himself and Val- 
halla, of his vain undertaking against Fate, and 
of its punishment. Alberich, possessing the gold, 

The Drama and its Meaning 

and having forsworn love, could rule the world 
and work destruction to Valhalla. To gain the 
gold, then, was the first thought of the god, mali- 
ciously persuaded thereto by Loge, but with the 
gold went its curse, to which his slow intelligence 
was not awake. In "The Rhine Gold" we see 
him jauntily attempting to put off the giants 
without their rightful due, counselling with the 
crafty Loge to gain Alberich's tainted gold, and 
recalled to the sense of impending retribution only 
by Erda's warning. We see him at the very end 
entering upon possession of his castle with mis- 
giving, and with the first foreshadowing of a hero 
and his sword who shall fight for him. In "The 
Valkyrie" we see him with his plan worked out to 
protect himself and his companions by rearing a 
hero, a free agent, who shall perform the expia- 
tion that he cannot perform — the restoration of 
the ring to its rightful owners. He has bartered 
the ring to the giants and cannot regain it; and 
Fafner, too stupid to use its power, lies sleeping 
and guarding it. The hero, of his own free will, 
thinks the god, shall gain the ring and fulfil the 
demands of law and remove at once the curse and 
the danger to the gods. He sacrifices his hero 
Siegmund at the demand of Fricka, and takes 
from his sword the irresistible power he promised 
in time of need; and though he thus saves himself 
one additional burden of guilt, he assumes an- 
other. He sees his plan wrecked and demolished 
and we watch in "The Valkyrie" the hopes and 
desires of this god ground between the upper and 
the nether millstone, his spirit anguished by their 


The Ring of the Nibelung 

demolition, standing at bay. "After his parting 
from Briinnhilde, Wotan truly is nothing but a 
departed spirit," wrote Wagner; "his highest aun 
can only be to let things take their course, go their 
own gait, no longer definitely to interfere." In 
"Sie^ried" he has given up his vain hope of per- 
petuating his power. He spends his days roam- 
ing over the earth as the Wanderer, waiting for 
the hero's coming that he knows he cannot resist, 
though it bring an end of the old order. "To 
look I came, not to do," he says to Alberich when 
he encounters him at Fafner's cave. And he tries 
in vain to bar the way to Siegfried, eager for 
Briinnhilde and the flaming circle about her. The 
sword that in Siegmund's hands was broken 
against his spear shaft, now shatters it as Sieg- 
fried swings it. "Fare on! I cannot restrain 
thee!" says the god, as he disappears forever from 
the scene. 

The full meaning of the curse is not learned by 
Wotan till he has reached the end of his tragic 
course. Wagner writes: "Only when the ring 
must ruin even Siegfried does he realize that this 
restoration of the stolen gold to the Rhine can 
wipe away the ill." In "The Valkyrie" he is an 
imposing figure, grimly opposing the forces against 
him, turning against the relentless pursuit of Fate. 
In "Siegfried" he is a pathetic one, rising to the 
tragic height of willing his own undoing. The 
tragedy of his position he himself poignantly ex- 
presses in "The Valkyrie," as he finds himself 
thwarted at every turn by the curse, in his desire 
to serve alike gods and the new race he is creating. 


The Drama and its Meaning 

"From the curse I fled, but even now the curse is 
with me. What I loved I must forsake, destroy 
what is dear to me, betray him who trusts me." 

The gods, helpless under the burden of their 
own transgression, are relieved from that burden 
by the free man, for whose appearance Wotan 
had made preparation. And by the same token 
they are doomed to their end. Siegmund, the 
hero whom he had begotten, who had himself 
won the sword as the sign of his fitness, was no 
free agent, but a puppet, moved by Wotan's will. 
The god's plan is shattered upon a new offence 
against the moral law — adultery joined to incest 
— for which both Siegmund and SiegUnde go 
down to destruction. 

But the race of the Volsungs is continued in 
Siegfried, with whose advent the workings of fate 
enter a new phase. He is the free agent, the 
unfettered youth, the natural man rejoicing in his 
own strength — "the fair young form of Man in 
all the freshness of his force," as Wagner de- 
scribed him; "the real, naked man, in whom I 
might spy each throbbing of his pulses, each stir 
within his mighty muscles, in uncramped, freest 
motion; the type of the free human being." As 
such he stands for untrammelled impulse and 
action, as Wotan stands for the restraint of law 
and a foresight of the outcome. In "The Dusk 
of the Gods" he has learned wisdom, but he must 
go unflinchingly forward to offer the expiation for 
the curse. He is at all times the type of the hero, 
the doer of deeds, the resolute and daring. 

Briinnhilde is without doubt the most splendid 


The Ring of the Nibelung 

of all Wagner's creations among his many great 
and winsome womanly characters. She is truly his 
creation, for she has beyond her name, no recog- 
nizable prototype in the Sagas. In her character 
of Wotan's wish maiden she has devotion, tender- 
ness, a heart of flaming fire; she is a woman, 
through all the aerial splendor of her divinity. 
There is a superb joy of freedom in her first 
appearance on the mountain peak with her Val- 
kyrie cry; as she appears to Siegmund to announce 
his doom, she comes as the proud representative 
of the will of Wotan. Now the majesty of her 
godlike attributes is foremost. Soon it is turned 
to burning sympathy finding outlet in impetuous 
action — a sympathy born of her deep love of her 
father, and of her impulse to carry out what she 
knows is his real will, the preservation of the 
hapless fugitive lovers, rather than of the purpose 
imposed upon him by Fricka. Through that 
comes her disobedience and its punishment, which 
is the penalty of her love. Wakening, in "Sieg- 
fried," emerging into her new state of mortal 
womanhood, she is at first fearful, dreading the 
growing passion of the ardent youth who has 
roused her; the fierce pride of the goddess now 
and again takes possession of her. But mortal 
woman she is, and as a mortal woman she gives 
herself to Siegfried, as the power of love enfolds 
her, too, the ''mad, furious maid," in a splendid 
self-surrender. Let the Norns rend their strands 
of fate, let the gods succumb in darkness; they 
two have found each other, and they, laughing, 
will go down to death. In "The Dusk of the 


The Drama and its Meaning 

Gods" she is very humanly a woman, and she 
goes through the heart-breaking sorrows of that 
experience with certain womanly weaknesses as 
well as womanly strength. But in the last scene, 
when all is revealed to her, and all things she 
knows, she rises to the supreme height of the 
grandeur of self-sacrifice. She tranquiUy imputes 
their everlasting disgrace to the gods, who con- 
demned Siegfried to the doom that should expiate 
their sins. He, truest of all, should betray her, 
that "wise a woman might grow." Her eloquence 
is the eloquence of a prophetess proclaiming a new 
day; and with solemn joy she joins her Siegfried 
on the funeral pyre to fulfill the last necessity that 
shall bring that day. Her sacrifice accomplishes 
the final retribution and atonement, and her last 
act accomplishes the affirmation of her last words, 
that love is the one eternal and enduring good. 




The prelude to " The Rhine Gold " is purely 
descriptive music, and is without significance apart 
from the scene to which it introduces us. In 
heightening the effect of that scene, however, and 
in preparing the listener's mood, it is wonderfully 
effective. The scene is the lowest depths of the 
Rhine; a greenish light penetrates but dimly from 
above. There is the motion of the waters; but 
before it is seen, at the parting of the curtain, it 
is felt and heard in the music. There is a long, 
sustained E flat, upon which is superposed a 
B flat; then begins an upward arpeggio figure of 
the tones of the tonic chord of E flat, in f rhythm, 
gradually increasing in complexity. It soon takes 
the following form, the motive of the Primeval 
Element, water: 


The waving arpeggiate figure breaks into a more 
rapid movement represented by sixteenth notes, 
and the harmony becomes fuller, the volume of 
tone greater. 


The Rhine Gold 


As the curtain parts, we see the three Rhine 
Maidens joyously swimming, and as they swim, 
singing: the motive of the Rhine Maidens (p. 5, 
syst. 3) : ' 



It is carried on with graceful melodic develop- 
ments, till Alberich, the dwarf, climbs out of a 
dark chasm, watches them, and finally calls to 
them. The clear fluency of the music is at once 
disturbed ; minor harmonies, short, crabbed phrases ; 
sharp, sudden discords; trouble its flow, as he 
calls to them and tries to catch them (pp. 8-19). 

* The references are to page and system in the new edition of 
the Piano Scores, by Karl Klindworth, published in this country by 
G. Schirmer. 


The Ring of the Nibelung 

Flosshilde sings him a mocking love song, 
(p. 19), and finally pelds herself to his embrace, 
till suddenly she breaks from it and joins her 
sisters with scornful laughter (p. 24). Alberich, 
lamenting, breaks out in a bitter rage and the 
motive of the Menial is heard (p. 24, syst. i): 


n,i r ^n"g ^fe 

The music depicts his wild chase of the three 
fair swimmers, his stumbling and falling over the 
rocks. As he finally pauses breathless, and shakes 
his fist at them, a chord succession is heard for- 
tissimo, in the insistent rh)1;hm that a little later 
will be completely identified with the race of the 
Nibelungs to which he belongs (p. 30, syst. 3) : 

The Rhine Gold in the rock suddenly begins to 
glow with an increasing brightness, sending out a 
magical golden light through the water. As they 
see it, the maidens circle around the rock, hymn- 
ing a gracious melody to the rippling accompani- 
ment of the orchestra ; and the motive of the Rhine 
Gold is intoned by the horns, thus, a sort of fanfare 
(p. 31, syst. i): 



The Rhine Gold 

The Rhine Daughters break into joyous song 
in praise of the Rhine Gold (p. 33, syst. 2) : 


but Alberich has no more eyes for them. His 
gaze is fixed on the gleaming gold. He asks them 
what it is; they deride his ignorance and Well- 
gunde tells him of its wonders. The world's 
wealth would be won by him who would fashion 
a ring of it. The orchestra for the first time pro- 
claims the Ring Motive (p. 41, syst. 3), that plays 
a part of great importance through all the rest of 
the score, under manifold transformations and 
developments ; 



The Ring of the Nibelung 


But this power would belong only to him, who 
would renounce love; and Woglinde goes on to 
disclose this fateful proviso, in the motive of 
Renunciation (p. 43, syst. i) gloomy and ominous: 


rfi»'- J Ji J'l 'r p r ^ jiiiJ ' J J' j'l V' p r^^ 

** Kurwwdw lli*.MkMlit mt - net. nor wardar Lw-beljnt tmt . jae 

-ngt, nor wardar Lia-beLnt Tar • jagt, 

n : ^ '- — ^^ 


ip^ | *Nf ^^ 

p MmrikkMtati 

The light-hearted sisters go on with their bab- 
bling: but Alberich, still gazing at the gold, forms 
his resolve. The Ring Motive and the motive of 
Renunciation are heard in succession (p. 47, syst. 
3, — p. 48, syst. i). He clambers up the rock from 
which the gold is gleaming, and at last seizes it, 
wrenches it from its place and makes way with it. 

Sudden darkness falls ; the maidens' merri- 
ment turns to lamentation. Alberich's mocking 
laughter is heard from the depths, and in the 
darkness the scene changes, as the orchestra plays 
a passage composed of motives previously em- 
ployed. The liiusic becomes subdued and more 
measured as the motive of Renunciation (p. 53, 
syst. 4), and the Ring (syst. 6) are heard. These 
are interrupted by a harp passage delicately sug- 
gesting the motive of Freia (xvii) that will later 
appear in more characteristic form. The stage 
gradually brightens, and the castle of Valhalla is 
disclosed, standing upon a cliff overlooking the 


The Rhine Gold 

Rhine. Wotan and Fricka lie asleep in the fore- 
ground. Day is dawning. The motive of Val- 
halla is softly intoned by the brass instruments 
(P- SSy syst. i): 


i m^f f i e i/fff i 

del e ia H mo 

mi itI'j'UIW 



Its closing cadences come later (p. 55, syst. 4): 

then (p. 57, syst. 4). 


The motive is one of the most grandiose and 
imposing of all, and wonderfully expressive of the 
power and dignity of the gods. It is generally 
played by the brass choir of the orchestra, which 
Wagner reinforced by the so-called "Bayreuth 
tubas," an instrument devised by him for his 
* ' Nibelung ' ' instrumentation . The relationship of 
this motive with that of the Ring (vi) will appear 


The Ring of the Nibelung 

on examination; but its form is more massive, its 
harmonies simplified and its intervals made dia- 
tonic instead of chromatic. This inter-relation 
of themes of allied significance will be met with 
through the whole Trilogy. It is one of the most 
subtle and. potent devices employed by Wagner 
to enhance their suggestiveness, and to secure co- 
herency and unity in his system. 

The god and the goddess rejoice in the sight of 
the "eternal work," but the troubling thoughts of 
the price to be paid comes speedily. With it we 
hear in the orchestra the motive of the Compact, 
by which that price, the person of Freia, goddess 
of Love and Youth, was agreed upon with the 
giants (p. 58, syst. 3): 



Another suggestion of the forces of Fate that 
work for destruction through the drama. Those 
who like may see in the steady downward course 
of the melody a suggestion of the fall of the gods 
of which this fatal compact was the starting point. 
Fricka upraids her spouse for his recklessness in 
entering into it — what had led her to consent 
was the hope of keeping him with her in these 
stately halls and thereby curtailing his wanderings; 
and this she expresses in a motive characteristic 
of the enchaining power of woman's love in mar- 
riage (p. 61, syst. i): 


The Rhine Gold 


B»rr-li-dw Wohaaqftwoa-al • gw BKa-mtli,MlV«ikdkk 

Disjected chords in the orchestra foreshadow 
the approach of Freia, fleeing from the giants who 
are trying to seize her as .their promised reward. 
The Flight Motive is sounded in the orchestra, 
combined with the first clause of the motive rep- 
resentative of herself, later appearing in its full 
and complete form (p. 64, syst. i). 


Fasolt was the giant who had threatened her; 
and at the mention of his name a suggestion of 
the Giants' Motive comes from the orchestra (p. 
64, syst. 3), but not its complete form — only one 
giant is mentioned ! Wotan bids her not to fear 
— did she see Loge? for upon Loge he relies to 
free him from his predicament ; and his name, too, 
calls forth a suggestion of his flickering theme 
(p. 64, syst. 4), but not yet in well recognizable 

Come the giants, stamping in clumsily and 
quite unmistakably, as follows: (p. 68, syst. i). 


The Ring of the Nibelung 



They point to the newly completed burg and ask 
their pay; Wotan jauntily inquires what tihey want. 
The Compact Motive is sounded (p. 69, syst. 3), 
as they say that of course it is the fair Freia, as 
agreed ; and her motive, not even yet in its definite 
form, is heard: (p. 69, syst. 3). The giants are 
speechless with rage at this treachery. The mo- 
tive of the Compact accompanies their references 
to the broken agreement (p. 70, syst. 2 and 4, etc.), 
as do fragments of the Freia Motive (p. 72, syst. 
4? P- 73> syst. 4). Fafner, in replying to Wotan's 
scornful query as to what such dullards want of 
her, recalls the Golden Apples that ripen in her 
garden; and their motive is a musical expression 
of the everlasting youth and joy they bring (p. 74, 
syst. 2): 


f f f f 

The commentators request us to notice the re- 
lationship of this with the motives of the Ring, of 
Renunciatioa and of Valhalla. The situation is 
becoming critical, when a respite is gained through 
the arrival of the long-expected Loge, the fire god, 


The Rhine Gold 

the intriguer, the shifty and adroit. The motive 
that accompanies him and his doings has been 
described as the most characteristic one in the 
whole Trilogy — a sparkling, scintillating passage 
in chromatics, ending with trills in sixths (p. 77, 
syst. 4): 


Its descriptive quality is unmistakable. Closely 
associated with it is the motive of his Magic Fire 
(p. 78, syst. 4): 



He has much to say of his efforts to think of 
some way to help Wotan, which rouses the anger 
of the gods Froh and Donner; but Wotan calms 
them with assurances of the worth of Loge's coun- 
sel. We heai" the motive of Reflection (p. 84, 
sys. 2) that later, in "Siegfried," is to be the audi- 
ble symbol of much thought : 


The Ring of the^ Nibelung 


ni|.i'B l f~^ I J ^^ = 

Loge recites his long search for a ransom for 
Freia — something that man will take as a substi- 
tute for woman's love, "her worth and delights/' 
Now for the first time we hear Freia's Motive, the 
motive of eternal youth, at its full value (p. 85, 
syst. 4): 


Several motives reappear in the course of this 
recital; the Rhine Gold (p. 87, syst. 2), Praise of 
the Rhine Gold (syst. 3), the Rhine Maidens (syst. 
4), the Ring (p. 88, syst. i), Loge (p. 89, syst. 3), 
Renunciation (upon which he seems to harp with 
special pleasure, p. 85, syst. 4, p. 86, syst. 3, p. 87, 
syst. 2, etc.). He rouses everybody's cupidity, the 
Giants, Wotan's, Fricka's; and in explaining the 
work of the dwarfs in thrall to Alberich, he brings 
up the Smithy Motive, but in a reversed rhythm 
(p. 92, syst. 3), later to appear in its proper form. 
Wotan having spumed the giants' offer to take 
the gold instead of Freia, they make oflf with her. 
A gloom comes upon the scene and the gods begin 
to look old and wan, as the goddess of youth is 


The Rhine Gold 

tcmi from them, and her motive is heard in chro- 
matic distortion (p. 103, syst. i, etc.). With 
Loge, Wotan starts oflf for Nibelheim to gain the 
gold which the giants may be induced to accept 
as a substitute for Freia. The scene changes 
behind a black cloud, and we hear in the orches- 
tra Loge's flickering motive (p. no, syst. 2), the 
motive of Renunciation (p. in, syst. 3), which 
suggests the fateful outcome of Wotan's plan; the 
motive of the Menial (p. in, syst. 5), leading into 
the Flight Motive in dotted triple rh)^hm (syst. 6) 
and into the Ring Motive, also in triple rhythm 
(p. 112, syst. 4) — a rhythmic elaboration that 
has prepared us for the Smithy Motive which now 
resounds, first in the orchestra (p. 112, syst. 5), in 
its proper form accompanied by the Rhine Gold 
fanfare, then hammered furiously upon unseen 
anvils behind the scene (p. 113, syst. i): 


With it the Flight Motive is combined, in the 
bass (p. 113, syst. i). The hammering on the an- 
vils gradually dies away ; the motive of the 
Menial becomes prominent (p. 114, syst. i); the 
whole merges into the Ring Motive (syst. 4) and 
the third scene, in Nibelheim, is shown with Alber- 
ich belaboring the unfortunate Mime, above the 
insistent repetition of the Menial's Motive. As 
Alberich seizes the miraculous Tamhelm, bestow- 
ing invisibility, we hear the Tamhelm Motive (p. 
117, syst. 2): 


The Ring of the Nibelung 


Note its vague, mysterious character, with its 
ending on the open fifth. 

We hear Loge's flickering chromatics (p. 122, 
syst. i), and know that the adventurers from the 
upper world are approaching. They find Mime 
moaning from his brother's blows, and ask him 
what his trouble is ; and his reflections on the sub- 
ject are accompanied by the motive thereto appro- 
priate (xvi; p. 123, syst. 2). Alberich enters, 
full of his triumph, and now certain of his mas- 
tery over the race of dwarfs, expressed through 
the motive of Alberich's Cry of Triumph (p. 133, 
syst. 3). 


developed out of the motive of the Menial (iii). 
The ensuing converse with Loge and Wotan is 
accompanied largely by Loge's chromatic motive. 
As Alberich boasts of his waxing store of gold 
wrought by the Nibelungs, there is heard the 
motive of the Rising Hoard (p. 139, syst. i), a 
little further on appearing in a somewhat more 
developed form (p. 143, syst. i): 


The Rhine Gold 


He mocks the life of the gods, "who laugh and 
love, lapped in gently wafting breezes," and 
Freia's Motive is heard (p. 140, syst. i), and those 
of Renunciation (syst. 4), Valhalla (p. 142, syst. 
i); the Rising Hoard (p. 143, syst. i), and the 
motive of the Rhine Gold (syst. 4). Tempted by 
Loge to show his power, he puts on the Tamhelm 
(the motive comes forth) (p. 150, syst. i), and 
turns himself into a dragon. Then is heard the 
Dragon Motive (p. 150, syst. 3). 


The description is wonderfully vivid. Hav- 
ing trapped him into becoming a toad, the two 
visitors seize him and his tamhelm and drag him 
up to the earth's surface. The scene changes and 
the orchestral interlude brings up the Valhalla 
Motive and Loge's flicker (p. 154, syst. 4), the 
Ring (p. 155, syst. 2), Renunciation (syst. 3) 
the Smithy (syst. 5), Flight (p. 156, syst. 2), the 
Giants and Valhalla (syst. 4), and so on. The 
mountain heights of the second scene are dis- 
closed as Alberich is dragged forth, abusing his 
captors. They demand his hoard as a ransom, 


The Ring of the Nibelung 

and as he summons the Nibelungs to bring it, the 
motive of the Rising Hoard is soimded (p. 164, 
syst. 4). Even the ring is forced from him, to his 
complete despair — for with that left him, he 
could regain all the rest. The motive of Compact 
(p. 173, syst. 2) is heard, and as the ring is seized, 
tiie Rhine Gold Motive is launched with a blast 
(p. 173, syst. 4), and then that of Renunciation 
(S3rst. 4). Alberich is set free. He turns to his 
captors in deadly rage and bitterness, and the 
motive of the Nibelung's Work of Destruction (p. 
174, syst. 4), is heard, its chief characteristic being 
its syncopated beat: 


and Alberich curses the gold and its possessors 
forevermore (p. 177, syst. 2): 


-=r— u 

It is the only power he has left to him; but, as 
Wolzogen sajrs, it is the power that won him the 
gold and the ring, the power that can destroy the 
world and the gods. The sky brightens; the giants 
are bringing back Freia. The rhythm of their 


The Rhine Gold 

motive is heard in the bass (p. 178, syst. 5), and 
the Freia Motive above it (p. 179, syst. 3). The 
exchange of Freia for the gold is about to be made, 
and the Compact Motive soimds (p. 182, syst. 2), 
but Fasolt demands that the treasure be piled so 
high (motive of the Rising Hoard, p. 182, syst. 
4), that it shall hide the fair maid, from his sight 
— and the motive of Renunciation comes (p. 183, 
syst. 2), with the Freia Motive and the Smithy 
Motive, welded together with a wonderful art. To 
stop the final crevices the Tamhelm (p. 188, syst. 
i), and the Ring must be added (Praise of the 
Rhinegold, p. 190, syst. i; Rhine Gold fanfare 
syst. 3; Ring, p. 191, syst. i), much against Wotan's 
will. He is persuaded to it by the warning of 
Erda, the wise, all-knowing mother, who emerges 
from the bowels of the earth, her dwelling-place, 
and whose emergence is accompanied by a mo- 
tive associated with the fate-dealing Noms, her 
daughters (p. 192, syst. 3): 


Its connection with the motive of the Primeval 
Element (I) is evident. She tells of the dire 
danger that has summoned her, and the malig- 
nant S3nicopations of the Nibelung's Work of 
Destruction all emphasis to her telling (p. 193, 
syst. 5). A darksome day dawns for the gods, is 


The Ring of the Nibelung 

her warning; and it is accompanied by the motive 
of the Dusk of the Gods (p. 194, syst. 2): 


"Give up the Ring!" she counsels (Ring, p. 
194, syst. 2), and Wotan yields, with the Compact 
Motive sounding loud (p. 196, syst. 2), and that of 
Renunciation (syst. 3): and the Flight Motive 
marking the release of Freia (p. 196, syst. 5). 
The curse of the Ring is instantly operative; for, 
in a quarrel over its possession, Fafner slays his 
brother Fasolt. The Curse Motive is heard (p. 
200, syst. 3) and the Nibelungs baleful S3nicopa- 
tions (p. 201, syst. i). Fricka coaxes Wotan to 
the newly-built and dearly-bought castle (Motives 
of Enchantment of Love, p. 202, syst. 2, and Val- 
halla, syst. 4). Donner summons a thunder 
storm to clear the air and the gloom that hangs 
over all. With the gathering clouds is heard Don- 
ner's Storm Magic (p. 204, syst. i): 




The Rhine Gold 

The storm clears ; a bright rainbow is seen span- 
ping the abyss between the cliff and the heights of 
VaUialla. The Rainbow is prefigured by an irides- 
cent play of instrumental tone color in the or- 
chestra (p. 208, syst. 3). 

The gods gaze on the glorious sight, as the 
music increases in richness and intensity; Wotan 
apostrophizes the castle as the shelter of the gods 
from approaching night. Then he is as though 
seized by a great thought — and that thought 
is expressed by the brilliant and energetic intona- 
tion by the orchestra of the following (p. 213, 
syst. i), which is: 


The thought is of the hero that he will beget to 
save the race of the gods, represented thus by his 
all-conquering sword. The score contains no 
stage directions at this point; the present day tra- 
dition at Bayreuth directs that Wotan shall stoop, 
pick up and brandish a sword that has been pre- 
sumably left over from the Nibelung's hoard, thus 


The Ring of the Nibelung 

grossly materializing a poetic idea much better 
left to be suggested by the music. 

The Valhalla Motive resounds (p. 213, syst. 4), 
and the gods start to walk over the rainbow arch 
to the castle. Loge, left behind, is ashamed to 
share in their dealings. "They are hastening on 
to their end," he says, yet he joins the celestial 
procession. As they cross the river, below them 
are heard the Rhine daughters lamenting the loss 
of their gold (Praise of the Rhine Gold, p. 216, 
syst. 28; Rhine Gold fanfare, p. 217, syst. i). The 
gods smile, but pass on in majestic company, 
while the full power of the orchestra intones the 
Valhalla Motive and the Rainbow Motive; and so 
the Prelude to the Trilogy is closed. 



In "The Valkyrie" we enter into a diflferent 
atmosphere, one of storm and stress and the pas- 
sions and destinies of human beings upon the 
earth's surface blindly following celestial plans. 
The prelude itself puts us into the midst of the 
tempest with which the drama is opened. A 
stormy figure plays through the orchestra rising 
to fury, as the hammer strokes of Donner's Storm 
Magic are heard (p. 3, syst. 2, etc.). As the cur- 
tain is lifted upon Hunding's hut, we hear: 


(p. 5, syst. 4). Sieglinde enters, and as she leans 
over the exhausted stranger, wondering at his con- 
dition, there is joined to the theme which repre- 
sents him, another, which embodies her and her 
S)anpathy for him (p. 7, syst. 3, in the treble clef): 




The Ring of the Nibelung 

As she gives him to drink from a horn of water, 
and he makes a sign of his gratitude, the motive 
of her love is heard (p. 9, syst. 2) : 


The fragment of the FKght Motive that precedes 
the notes of this theme is to be observed ; and thus 
joined, it occurs repeatedly in the next succeeding 
portion of the drama. As the man and the woman 
find themselves more and more bound by the fet- 
ters of love, there appears still another motive 
that relates to them, the Volsung pair; the motive 
of the Woes of the Volsungs (p. 15, syst. i). It 
appears first in close union with the motive of 
Sieglinde's S)mipathy: 



The development of these motives in this first 
scene is beautifully and poetically carried through, 
in a mood of tenderness and growing passion. 
But now a harsh contrast comes. Sieglinde's sav- 
age husband approaches, and as he comes, the 
characteristic Hunding Motive is played by the 
heavy brass instruments: 


The Valkyrie 


%& • 

He announces his own name, and asks his 
guest's, and we hear the motive of the Woes of 
the Volsungs, as Siegmund goes on in mystifying 
fashion to tell what his name is not, and to de- 
scribe his storm-tossed life. As he tells of the 
disappearance of his father, Wolfe, who is none 
other than Wotan, the solemn strains of the Val- 
halla Motive are intoned (p. 26, syst. 2). The 
Motive of Sieglinde's J^ove is he^rd (p. 26, syst. 
3, p. 28, syst. 2), and Sympathy (p. 28, syst. 4), 
accompanying him; the Woes of the Volsungs in 
a quicker or "diminished" form (p. 29, syst. i), 
the motive of the Wearied Siegmund (p. 31, syst. 
2), the. figure that in the prelude represented the 
storm (p. ^i, syst. 3), and finally, as he ends his 
story, the motive of the Woes of the Volsungs, in 
its original form (p. 32, syst. i), all appear. 
"Now," he sa^s to Sieglinde, "you may know 
why I may not be called Friedmund": and there 
comes an impressive motive denoting the heroic 
lineage of the Volsungs (p. 32, syst. 2) : 


MoHb moderato 


The Ring of the Nibelung 

The scenes that follow, culminating in the love 
duet between Siegmund and Sieglinde, bring in 
most of the motives that have appeared since the 
curtain parted; and in addition are to be noted 
the Flight Motive (p. 35, syst. 3), and the Sword 
Motive as Sieglinde, going to follow her husband, 
indicates with her eyes a particular spot on the 
trunk of the ash tree (p. 35, syst. 5). Left alone, 
Siegmund calls upon Walse for the sword, he has 
promised him in time of need: and as he calls, 
looks toward the ash tree again, where, lighted by 
a sudden flaring up of the fire on the hearth, he 
sees a sword hilt sticking out — and then again 
the Sword Motive is sonorously proclaimed (p. 39, 
syst. 2). Sieglinde returns and tells Siegmund of 
a sword she wishes he might win for himself, and 
as she speaks, is heard the Victorious Cry of the 
Volsungs united with the Sword Motive (p. 44, 
syst. i). 


M .1 {"P* 1 

flvnnpir ._j.. h' 

r' P' 

' f 


She relates how an old man once thrust a sword 
to its hilt into the ash tree which none could ever 
withdraw, and again the Valhalla motive is heard 
(p. 44, syst. 4), since the old man is none other 
than Wotan. The Sword Motive and the Victo- 
rious Cry accompany her outburst of yearning and 
Siegmund's avowal of his love. Follows the long 
love song of the two, a broad, passionate, and 


The Valkyrie 

heroic melody, in which the Love Motive (xxxi) 
the Valhalla Motive, the Flight Motive (p. 58, syst. 
i), the Heroic theme with the Sword Motive (p. 
67, syst. i), the Freia Motive (p. 61, syst. 2 and 4), 
are mingled. Finally, in the height of his exalta- 
tion, Siegmund springs up, seizes the sword hilt, 
and pulls it from the tree trunk, in triumph. The 
Victorious Cry of the Volsungs, the Sword Motive, 
the motive of Compact (p. 70, syst. 4), accompany 
this glorious scene, one of the most thrilling that 
Wagner has created. The orchestral finale is de- 
veloped from SiegKnde's Love Motive, with splen- 
did and tumultuous passion. 

We return in the second act to the company of 
the gods. The prelude is built upon a strange 
distortion of the Sword Motive in nine-eight 
rh)rthm and minor harmonies, united with the 
Flight Motive, which goes over into the closely 
related Cry of the Valkyrie (p. 79, syst. 2) : 


to which is later added the characteristic accom- 
paniment figure, as the real Valkyrie Motive. 



The Ring of the Nibelung 

and to which belongs, as further on appears, the 
trill and the downward rush of chromatic sixths 
(p. 82, syst. 2): 



These motives accompany the interview of 
Wotan and his daughter Briinnhilde, in which he 
charges her to shield the Volsung in his approach- 
ing fight with Hunding. Comes Fricka, before 
whose injured majesty Briinnhilde disappears ; and 
in the long debate which follows between her and 
her spouse, and in which she represents and en- 
forces the sanctity of the marriage tie by demand- 
ing the death of the guilty Volsung pair, many of 
the motives already made known reappear. As 
Fricka gradually drives him from his purpose to 
protect the Volsungs, even to the point of with- 
drawing the invincible might of Nothung, the mo- 
tive of Wotan's Grim Humor is heard (p. 99, 
syst. 2): 


Its connection with the motives of Compact and 
of Renunciation, both musically and logically, is 


The Valkyrie 

not difficult to perceive. Briinnhilde returns 
with a return of the motives associated with her 
(p. 104, syst. 4, etc.). Wotan swears to comply 
with Fricka's demand (Compact Motive, p. 107, 
syst. 2), and is sunk in the gloomiest brooding at 
the predicament in which he finds himself thereby. 
(Curse Motive, p. 108, syst. i), from which Briinn- 
hilde seeks to lift him. The following scene, in 
which Wotan discloses the breadth and depth of 
his distress, the "gods' despair" the nature of the 
fetters in which he has found himself, is com- 
pacted of the most significant motives relating to 
the causes and the chain of events that have 
brought him where he is. A new one is intro- 
duced when he tells of the hero who will dare to 
do what to him is denied, in extricating him from 
his plight, the motive of the God's Plight, in which 
the traits of the Noms and the Dusk of the Gods 
Motive may be discerned (p. 120, syst. 4): 


■■'Ml 1 1 ' 

'1 r r 1 

•pT r Tr- 

■pr r [rw=*'-^^*^ 

ijii.j \D(1'4 


J- JiJ. Jj jj 


to which is often joined that of Wotan's Grim 
Humor (p. 120, syst. 3; p. 121, syst. 4). Almost 
with the forces of a new motive, significant of 
Wotan's Renunciation of the World's Control, is 
a compound of the Valhalla Motive, wrenched 
into minor harmonies, with the Rhine Gold fan- 
fare that appears on page 129, system 4. 


The Ring of the Nibelung 

Heralded by the Flight Motive, Siegmund and 
Sieglinde, fleeing from the wrath of Hagen, rush 
in. Her Love Motive softens the ominous, fore- 
boding tone (p. 141, syst. 5). The rh)rthmic out- 
line of Hunding's Motive is heard (p. 147, syst, 4), 
suggesting his approach; and Sieglinde, beside 
herself, falls unconscious in Siegmund's arms, 
after an outburst of terror. As he sits, supporting 
her head upon his lap, Briinnhilde appears, noti- 
fying to him his approaching death, his removal 
to join the band of heroes at Valhalla. Her com- 
ing is announced by a solemn intonation of the 
motive of Fate with its first questioning chord, 
resolving in an upward inflexion (p. 152, syst. 4), 
followed by an upward mounting phrase, pro- 
phetic of Siegmund's death: 


fjnif » ii.01iiil1 


The following scene, in which these motives are 
elaborated (in connection with the theme of Val- 
halla), is of profound impressiveness. The Val- 
kyrie Motive is heard (p. 156, syst. 2), and then the 
Freia Motive, as Briinnhilde describes the Wish 


The Valkyrie 

Maidens who shall wait on the heroes (p. 157, 
syst. i); then the motive of Sieglinde's Love as' 
Siegmund learns that SiegUnde may not accom- 
pany him thither (p. 158, syst. 3). He scornfully 
rejects Briinnhilde's notification of his death de- 
cree, and when he is told that the magic power of 
his sword has been revoked, and that death is his 
doom, starts to slay his beloved and their unborn 
child ; a hurried and distorted version of the Death 
Prophecy (xxxixft) appears as Briinnhilde stays 
his hand (p. 168, syst. 4), and in a passionate out- 
burst of sympathy promises to both their lives, 
and she rushes forth. SiegUnde slumbers on in 
Siegmund's arms as Hunding's horn heralds his 
approach. He leaves her with a kiss (Freia Mo- 
tive, p. 174, syst. i), and hastens to find the foe. 
The Flight Motive, the Sword Motive, and in the 
increasing darkness, Donner's Thunder Motive (p. 
175, syst. 3), are heard. In the gloom the battle 
takes place ; with the shrill Valkyrie trills and 
the galloping bass motive, Briinnhilde appears (p. 
179, syst. 3, 4), to protect the hero; but suddenly 
Wotan emerges from the darkness, stretching out 
his spear, upon which Siegmund's sword is 
splintered, as we hear the Sword Motive in 
minor, conjoined with the Compact Motive 
(p. 180, syst. i). Siegmund falls, pierced by 
Hunding's spear. The motive of the Menial (sig- '•v>c <..%■». 
nifying the Nibelung's triumph) is heard (p. 180, 
syst. 2. 3), and the Heroic Theme and the Fate 
Motive sound solemnly (p. 180, syst. 3, 4); in the 
gloom Briinnhilde lifts Sieglinde to her horse and 
bears her away. Hunding, having accomplished 


The Ring of the Nibelung 

the purpose to which Wotan is pledged, falls dead 
before the wave of his hand, as the god gazes 
sadly on Siegmund's body. Then the thought of 
Briinnhilde's disobedience rouses him to sudden 
anger, and he storms forth, as through the orchestra 
runs the motive of the God's Plight. 

The third act opens upon a rocky peak where 
the Valkyries are gathering; the orchestral pre- 
lude is the well-known "Ride of the Valk)rries," 
a vivid and strongly characterized picture built 
up entirely upon the several sections of the Val- 
kyrie Motive, with which is associated a closely 
allied rh)1;hmic figure of realistic character, sug- 
gesting the galloping of their horses: 


'^H ^' J _y I i ^ . 

The gathering of the nine sisters gives occasion 
for one of Wagner's concerted pieces, in which, 
though they are rare in his later music dramas, he 
shows the highest skill and feeling for effect in 
vocal part-writing. As Briinnhilde comes, carry- 
ing Sieglinde upon her horse, the motive of the 
God's Plight appears (p. 203, syst. i), then the 
diminished version of the Death Prophecy (p. 204, 
syst. i), and the motive of Flight (syst. 2). Sieg- 
linde's refuge, where her child is to be born, is to 
be Fafner's cave; and as this is told, the motive 
of the Ring (p. 224, syst. i), which the dragon is 
guarding, and of the Dragon (xxiii, syst. 2), 
accompany the reference. Briinnhilde announces 


The Valkyrie 

to her that she bears in her womb the most glo- 
rious hero of the worid, Siegfried; and now for 
the first time his motive is set forth (p. 226, syst. 3) : 


For him she shall keep the fragments of the 
shattered sword which Briinnhilde has gathered 
from the field of his father's death, and the Sword 
Motive gleams through the orchestra (p. 227, 
syst. i). Profoundly moved, Sieglinde bursts 
forth in exaltation "O radiant wonder!" etc., in 
the wonderful theme that is to play so wonderful 
a part in the climax of the Trilogy at the close of 
" The Dusk of the Gods." The theme is that 
of Redemption through Love (p. 228, syst. i) : 



The Ring of the Nibelung 

Wotan comes through the storm-wind; his 
anger is expressed through the motive of Grim 
Humor (p. 240, syst. i), and a development of it 
through the musical device known as augmenta- 
tion (as appears first on p. 243, syst. 3). 

The scene between the angry father and the dis- 
obedient daughter, that closes the drama is one of 
the finest of all Wagner's imaginings. It is carried 
through with the most sustained power and un- 
ending resource, complete and inevitable in its 
expression of the great emotional climax it depicts 
— the change and merging of the god's anger into 
sorrowing love, the submissiveness of the implor- 
ing daughter, the consolation she fijids in the form 
of punishment her father decrees. Her wonderful 
song of justification is based on the theme that is 
brought inmiediately to a hearing (p. 265, syst. i). 


That and the motive of Wotan's Grim Humor 
(xxxvii) constitute most of the material out of 
which the next pages of the score are compacted. 
From the latter has been developed the little phrase 
(p. 265, syst. 5), that is frequently heard in the 


The Valkyrie 

orchestra in more or less fullness, and the per- 
sistent running figure that envelopes much that is 
now heard (p. 269, syst. 4, and the following). 
Wotan's reply rises to a height of tragic pathos, 
as he discloses the full measure of his own despair. 
It is not granted him to end his own unending 
sorrow in the wreck of a ruined world (Renuncia- 
tion, p. 276, syst. 3; Curse, immediately following). 
Brunnhilde in vain pleads for a tnitigation of her 
punishment, which he has decreed to be the loss 
of her divine attributes (Compact, p. 278, syst. 2). 
In vain she urges that, as a mortal maiden, she 
may have the heroic child of the Volsungs for her 
spouse (Heroic Theme, p. 281, syst. 2; Siegfried 
the Volsung, syst. 3). Wotan announces to her 
that she shall be locked in sleep; and a series of 
descending chromatic harmonies, vague and un- 
steady in tonality, suggest the dim land of twi- 
light and slumber (p. 284, syst. 4) : 


A gently rhythmical motive first heard in 
minor (p. 285, syst. 4), then later in major, re- 
flects the picture of sleep : 




The Ring of the Nibelung 

Whoever shall find her and awaken her shall 
possess her for his wife. 

Briinnhilde prays to be surrounded by terrors 
that shall keep from her all but the hero without 
fear (p. 286, syst. 3) — by a wall of fire; and the 
motive of the Fire Magic is heard in flickering 
arpeggios accompanied by the Valkyrie Motive 
(p. 288, syst. 2). Wotan gazes at his daughter in 
deep emotion, and the Valkyrie and Slumber 
Motives are sounded in heroic exaltation (p. 289, 
syst. 3, p. 290, syst. i). The daughter's high 
and noble spirit breaks down the father's anger 
and he gives her his farewell in a long, sustained 
song of glorified melody of indescribable godlike 
breadth, tenderness, and dignity. He grants her 
request; the barrier of flame shall keep away all 
but the one fearless hero. It is accompanied by 
a marvellous orchestral interweaving of fragments 
and extensions and efflorescences of the Slumber 
Motive, Valkyrie Motive, the Death Prophecy, the 
Fire Motive, Loge's flaming chromatics, Si^- 
fried's Motive and an ennobled and broadened 
development of Brunnhilde's song of Justification 
(p. 294, syst. 2). The Slumber Motive becomes 
more predominant (p. 295, syst. 2). The Re- 
nunciation Motive points with its ominous tones to 
Wotan's painful surrender (p. 297, syst. 3). He 
kisses her godhead from her, and the veiled har- 
monies of the Twilight Motive (p. 297, syst. 4), 
descend; the soft movement of the Slumber Mo- 
tive returns (p. 298, syst. 2), united with the 
melody to which Wotan has just sung his fare- 
well. The Fate Motive is heard (p. 299, syst. i). 


The Valkyrie 

With the motive of Compact Wotan summons 
Loge. His scintillating chromatic trills accom- 
pany his appearance as streams of flame, and 
with the Magic Fire Charm united with the Slum- 
ber Motive (p. 302, syst. 3). Finally the Siegfried 
Motive is added to them through the majestic 
proclamation of the trombones (p: 303, syst. 3), 
and the melody of Wotan's farewell (p. 304, syst. 
i) follows it. The end comes in the Slumber 
Motive and the Fire music, as Wotan slowly and 
sorrowfully disappears. 



Again the scene and the spirit, the atmosphere 
and the music change completely. There shall 
be life, human and joyous, and the joy of life, in 
plenty; but first we are taken into the gloom and 
squalor of the Nibelung's abode. Mime sits and 
ponders in his forest cave. The motive of Re- 
flection (xvi) runs through the orchestral pre- 
lude. What he ponders over is suggested by the 
motive of the Rising Hoard (p. i, syst. 3). The 
Smithy Motive comes in (syst. 5), the motives of 
the Menial (p. 2, syst. 3), and the Ring Motive 
(p. 3, syst. s). Mime's despondent musings bring 
him to the thoughts of Fafner the dragon (Dragon 
Motive, p. 7, syst. 7), and the Sword that would 
lay him low (p. 8, syst. 3). In the midst of his 
dronings enters Siegfried, and the horn announces 
him in the clear and vigorous blast that through 
the rest of the Trilogy is associated with the im- 
petuous child of the forest (p. 11, syst. i): 


He demands of Mime the sword he has been at 
work on (Sword Motive, p. 15, syst. 4), but, test- 
ing it, he spHnters it to pieces on the anvil, and 
bursts out into impatient scolding of the dwarfs 
paltry bungling, most characteristically expressed 



by a motive denoting here his impatience, in other 
places his strenuous activity (p. i6, syst. i): 


Mime prates on to him of his excellent care of 
him, of his fostering love: and in the story a 
rh)rthmically altered and shortened version of the 
Smithy Theme has a prominent place (p. 19, 
syst. i). But Siegfried is all impatience at this 
futile tale and demands another kind of love, 
such as he sees in nature out of doors, and the 
sweet melody of Love in Nature adds point to his 
question (p. 27, syst. 3): 



He asks about his father and mother, but can 
get no satisfaction from the dwarf, who always 
returns to the enumeration of his own deserts, till 
finally he learns that his mother died in giving 
him birth (Woes of the Volsungs, p. 37, syst. 4). 
The scene is elaborated with poetic beauty and 
psychological insight. Finally Mime fetches Sieg- 
fried, as a proof of his story, the broken pieces of 


The Ring of the Nibelung 

his father's sword, which Siegfried declares he 
must weld anew, and a brilliant variant of the 
Sword Motive in six-eight rhythm leaps from the 
orchestra (p. 44, syst. i). Leaving Mime to 
wrestle with this task, which he knows he cannot 
perform, Siegfried storms forth into the forest to 
the gay strains of his Song of Wandering (p. 46, 
syst. 2): 


Left alone, Mime is soon interrupted in his 
worries by the entrance of an unwelcome guest, 
Wotan, who is traversing the world as the Wan- 
derer. He is announced by his Motive of Wan- 
dering, in which the constant shifting and wan- 
dering of the tonality of the first measures, through 
chromatic changes in the harmony, as well as the 
tranquil dignity and measured tread of the last, 
are significant (p. 50, syst. 3) : 




1 5 ■ ^^- .... 







J. „,i\ 


%3 l/rg 


-T-l 1— 




^k./j ij 



[[ytg n .. 

M=^ = 




■i 4 i 

f »» ■' 

^ J 

^J ^i 

Kj- ■• 



[7 2] 


The ensuing scene of the three riddles pro- 
pounded by each for the stake of his head, a 
scene full of the traits of prehistoric legends, in- 
troduces a throng of motives that have gone 
before. As the Wanderer describes the gods who 
dwell on the cloud-hidden heights, ruled by Wotan, 
a new motive appears, the motive of the Gods' 
Might (p. 62, syst. 4): 


The Wanderer having saved his head by his 
answers. Mime takes his turn timidly and ner- 
vously, — as is suggested by a motive of descend- 
ing chromatics that introduces his trial (p. 66, 
syst. 2). 

The Wanderer's third question as to who will 
weld the splinters of Nothung the sword, throws 
him into despair — though its answer is lightly 
suggested by the orchestra with the theme of 
Siegfried the Volsung (p. 74, syst. i). Siegfried's 
theme of Strenuous Activity covers his confusion 
(syst. 2), and the theme of Renunciation suggests 
the outcome of his vain quest for a response 
(p. 75, syst. 2). The Wanderer claims the victory 
and Mime's head, but gives his opponent the 
answer after scornfully commenting on Mime's 
failure to ask for the solution of the problem that 
is tormenting . him. The Wanderer's Motive 


The Ring of the Nibelung 

(p. 75, syst. 4), Renunciation (p. 76, syst. i), the 
Sword (syst. 2), the Compact, combined with the 
Smithy Motive (syst. 2), and the Dragon (syst. 4) 
accompany his words. Only he who has never 
known fear shall forge Nothung anew, says 
Wotan: he leaves Mime's head forfeit to him — 
and who that is we hear from the orchestra in 
the motive of Siegfried the Volsung (p. 77, syst. 3). 
The Wanderer turns away smiling. Mime falls, 
overwhelmed with terror and despair, and the 
orchestra gives expression in shivering chromatic 
tremolos to his state of fear. The tremolo passes 
into Loge's figure as the sunlight strikes into the 
recesses of the cave, and fills the creature of 
darkness with a new terror, in which Siegfried 
finds him as he returns, with his Song of Wander- 
ing (p. 81, syst. i), and the signal of his Strenu- 
ous Activity (p. 87, syst. 4). Mime tries to frighten 
the fearless boy with his own fear, that he may 
feel sure of his forfeited head. He tells him he 
has promised his mother to teach him this won- 
derful thing; but not all his graphic words nor all 
Loge's fireworks can succeed, though Siegfried 
is a willing pupil. Only from the slumbering 
Briinnhilde shall he learn fear; and so, through all 
this, comes forth more and more clearly Briinn- 
hilde's Slumber Motive; at first chromatically 
twisted and weakened, to fit with Mime's mood 
(p. 90, syst. 3, 4; p. 91, syst. 2), then, in the clear 
C major, in its proper form (p. 91, syst. 4). Then 
Mime tries the dragon on him; but only to rouse 
anew Siegfried's eagerness for the sword to wield 
against this interesting creature; and he demands 



the pieces, that he himself may forge the blade. 
The great scene of the forging that follows is 
introduced with a leaping triplet motive in aug- 
mented intervals, that runs through much of it, 
clearly derived from the first part of Siegfried's 
Horn Call. His successful progress in the task 
gives Mime much to think of — how shall he 
gain the ring, if Siegfried slays the dragon? 
(Ring Motive, p. 105, syst. 2). As Siegfried goes 
on he sings an immensely vigorous apostrophe to 
the sword whose name he has demanded of the 
dwarf, in which the Nothung Phrase plays an 
important part (p. 107, syst. i): 


Several other characteristic melodic figures run 
through this robust and jubilant scena — as much 
a tour de force for the tenor, with an added artis- 
tic requirement at the bellows and anvil, as any 
in Italian opera. The most important of these is 
the motive of Siegfried's Triumph (p. 115, syst. 4): 


and the motive of the Forging (p. 119, syst. 4): 


The Ring of the Nibelung 


Meanwhile Mime schemes to brew a poison to 
administer to the young hero when he has slain 
Fafner, and potters over it, imagining great things 
from possessing the gold. The Smithy Motive 
intrudes itself upon Mime's fancies (p. 129, syst. 2; 
p. 132, syst. 2, etc.), as Siegfried sings his tri- 
umphant song, and the curtain falls as he cleaves 
the anvil in twain with his irresistible blade, now 
his to win all the world has in store for him. 

A wood shrouded in gloom, before the entrance 
to Fafner's fearsome cavern, is shown in the sec- 
ond act. Gloomy and fearsome music accom- 
panies the picture, in which a transformed and 
darkened version of the Giants' Motive plays 
much part (p. 136, syst. i) ; so do the Dragon Mo- 
tive (syst. 2), the Ring (syst. 6), the Curse (p. 137, 
syst. 4), and the Nibelung's Work of Destruction 
(p. 138, syst. i). Alberich is seen in the darkness, 
brooding and watching for the dragon's slayer. 
The galloping figure of the Ride (xl, p. 140, 
syst. i), united with the theme of the Plight of the 
Gods precede the approach of Wotan the Wan- 
derer on his horse. There is a suggestion of the 
Valhalla Theme (p. 142, syst. 2) and the motive 
of Wandering accompanies Wotan's declaration in 
answer to Alberich's sullen and scornful greeting, 
that he comes to watch, not to do (p. 143, syst. 4). 
In the dialogue that follows, the two natures are 



wonderfully diflFerentiated in the music. Alber- 
ich's taunts are accompanied by the motive of 
Wotan's Grim Humor (p. 144, syst. 4), the 
motive of Compact (p. 145, syst. 4), the Nibe- 
lung's Work of Destruction (p. 147, syst. i), the 
Ring (p. 148, syst. 3), Loge's motive (p. 149, 
syst. i), and finally, the motive of the Sword (p. 
149, syst. 4) the symbol of his hope of regaining 
the ring, through Fafner's death. Wotan rouses 
the sleeping dragon to warn him of his approach- 
ing doom, who demands only to be let sleep ; and 
with a bit of world philosophy (motive of the 
Primeval Element, p. 157, syst. i), leaves him to 
face the situation. The Riding Motive accom- 
panies his departure, with the harmonies of his 
Wandering Motive (p. 158, syst. 3) and a strain of 
the parting song he had sung to Briinnhilde (p. 
159, syst. i). 

Siegfried and Mime approach, on their errand, 
as day breaks. A fragment of Siegfried's song at 
the forge is heard (p. 160, syst. 5), and other 
familiar motives, including the Briinnhilde Slumber 
Motive advising us that he is not to learn fear 
from the dragon, but from her. Mime describes 
the coming terrors of the monster, but Siegfried 
plans his course of action cheerfully (Heroic 
Theme of the Volsungs, p. 164, syst. 4, Strenu- 
ous Activity, p. 165, syst. 3). Mine leaves him, 
and, reclining under the trees, he ponders on his 
hatred for his foster father, and on the mother 
whom he never saw. The scene is one of the 
most poetically beautiful of all Wagner's pictur- 
ings of nature brought into relation with human 


The Ring of the Nibelung 

tenderness; of exquisite art and unerring feeUng 
in the instrumental coloring and suflFused with 
sheer musical beauty; while its pictorial quality 
and its delineation of the wood are irresistible. 
As an excerpt for concert performance it has be- 
come familiar as the " Waldweben," — the Sounds 
of the Forest. There is the rustle of the trees in 
the whispering violin figure, in thirds and sixths 
(p. 171, ff.) that we hear so much of. From the 
theme of the Woes of the Volsungs (xxxii) is 
evolved the beautiful melody that accompanies 
Siegfried's musings about his mother (p. 174, 
syst. 2). The theme of Love in Nature (xlviii) 
is fittingly associated with it in its wistful tender- 
ness (p. 17s, syst. 3). Freia's Motive with its 
characteristic undulating accompaniment is joined 
to them (p. 176, syst. 2), in harmony with the 
mood and the color scheme. Now comes the 
bird, which entrances Siegfried with its singing; 
and its music Wagner has devised with the^ sub- 
tlest and truest feeling for the possibilities of rais- 
ing bird sounds, mostly unmusical, to the higher 
power of music, while still retaining their charac- 
teristic charm. He thus represents Siegfried's 
gracious birdling" (pp. 176-178): 





As a way of understanding this strange lan- 
guage, Siegfried attempts to imitate it on a reed; 
but with lamentably harsh and unmusical results. 
He gives it up, and blows on his own horn a 
"blithesome wood-song" — the horn call, the 
Siegfried Motive, the Sword Motive (p. 184). 
The sound wakes the sleeping dragon, who comes 
out to devour the venturesome disturber of his 
peace. In the fight that follows the orchestral 
background is made up of developments of the 
Dragon Motive, the Giants, the Sword Motive, 
and Siegfried's Horn Call. The fearless hero is 
victorious and as he pierces the dragon's heart, 
the theme of the Nibelung's Work of Destruction 
is predominant (p. 190, syst. 4), followed by the 
Curse (p. 191, syst. 3). Dying, the dragon asks 
his slayer's name (Siegfried, the Volsung, p. 194, 
syst. 2), and warns him, in a passage of real pathos 
and touching power, of the machinations of Mime, 
thus putting one good deed to the credit of a 
misspent life (the Nibelung's Work of Destruction, 
p. 193, syst. 2). Siegfried's hand being spotted 
with the dragon's blood in withdrawing the sword, 
it bums like fire, and he puts it to his mouth. 
Then it seems to him that he understands the 
voice of the bird as it speaks to him. That 
voice bids him discover the ring among the 
dragon's treasure. He enters the cave to find it, 
and Mime steals back to the scene of the conflict, 
with his little pot of poison for the victor. Al- 
berich also emerges from his hiding-place to bar 
his brother's way. They have their quarrel over 
the spoils, in the course of which the motives of 


The Ring of the Nibelung 

the Tamhehn (p. 2cx), syst. 2), of Reflection (syst. 
4), of the Smithy (p. 202, syst. i), Alberich's Cry 
of Triumph (p. 204, syst. 3), the Ring (p. 205, 
syst. 2), and the Rhine Gold (p. 206, syst. i), 
show forth the subject of their dispute and are 
welded together in a way to set forth clearly the 
harsh and domineering nature of the one, the 
feeble shiftiness and impotent avarice of the other. 
Siegfried emerges from the cavern, thoughtfully 
regarding his booty, the Ring and the Tamhelm, 
which alone he has selected from the treasure, 
and which he considers only as trifles that will 
vouch for his victory over the dragon, nothing 
more. Mime sidles up to him, very friendly, with 
his flowery compliments to him and to himself, 
in the music of mock-friendliness and full of 
childish double-meanings. A new motive comes 
forth for an instant here, denoting his covetous- 
ness for the dragon's booty, later to be developed 
in " The Dusk of the Gods " as expressive of the 
Gibichungs and their covetousness (p. 213, syst. 

(Th« Gibichungs) 

But Siegfried repulses him — a straih of the 
Bird's song suggests whence his instinctive dislike 
has gained the reinforcement of reason (p. 213, 
syst. 4; p. 216, syst. 4) — and as Mime tries anew 
to cajole him into taking his poisonous brew, he 



suddenly fells him with his sword. Alberich's 
mocking laughter is heard, in the Smithy Motive, 
together with the motive of Reflection (p. 222, 
syst. i). Siegfried picks the body up and throws 
it into the mouth of the cave to keep company 
with the dead dragon (Horn Call, p. 222, syst. 3; 
Smithy Motive, syst. 4; Giant Motive, p. 224, 
syst. i; Rising Hoard, syst. 3; Ring, syst. 3). 
Once more Siegfried turns to his friendly Bird, 
to the music of the theme of Love in Nature 
(p. 226, syst. 4), and as he sadly confides his 
desolate feeUngs, a new motive springs brilliantly 
and aggressively from the orchestra, a motive of 
passionate longing, expressive of his yearning for 
love (p. 228, syst. 3): 


mmom i 



immediately followed by the tenderer phrase of 
the theme of Love in Nature (p. 229, syst. 2). 
The Bird tells him of the love that is waiting for 
him, of the bride whom he shall waken and win, 
and Siegfried starts joyfully on under this guid- 
ance to find her. Among the themes that are 
welded together in this magnificently animated 
scene are those of Siegfried the Volsung (p. 234, 
syst. 2), Briinnhilde's Slumber (syst. 3), and the 
various sections of the Bird's own song, as it flies 
on, leading Siegfried toward the blazing rock. 

* [81] 

The Ring of the Nibelung 

The third act opens with a stormy orchestral 
prelude in which the Riding Motive and the mo- 
tive of the God's Plight are first imited, and then 
in the bass, the motive of the Compact (p. 239, 
syst. 4) ; the harmonies are transformed into those 
of the Wanderer's Motive (p. 240). The scene 
depicts a wild, rocky place in the mountains. 
Wotan is at hand, and we are in the realm of 
mother Erda, whom he summons from sleep to 
answer his question, how a god may conquer his 
care? The scene is conceived in a spirit of 
gloomy, unearthly restlessness. The god foresees 
the end of his rule and of his race. The music is 
largely dominated by a phrase derived from the 
Flight Motive (p. 242, syst. 3, etc.). His call is 
accompanied by the Norn Motive (p. 243, syst. 2) 
and its converse, that of the Dusk of the Gods 
(syst. 4, etc.). As Erda's uncanny shape appears 
in bluish light within the cavern, the mysterious 
harmonies of the Twilight Motive are sounded 
(p. 244, syst. 3) following the motive of Compact, 
and the motive of Fate (p. 245, syst. i). The 
Noms, she tells him, wake while she sleeps; why 
does he not ask them? They are in thrall to the 
world, says Wotan: the Ring Motive here, because 
the magic of the ring still rules the world (p. 248, 
syst. 3), and the motive of Renunciation (syst. 4). 
Darkness o'erspreads her spirit, is Erda's avowal ; 
her wisdom is waning; a conqueror once overcame 
even her knowledge, and she bore him a Wish 
Maiden (Valhalla, p. 249, syst. 4), bold and wise 
(Briiniihilde's Slumber Motive, p. 250, syst. 2 ; Fate 
Motive, syst. 3). Why does he not ask her ? With 



the melody of her Justification (p. 251, syst. i), 
and the Valkyrie's Motive (syst. 4), and closing 
with a phrase from his noble song of farewell in 
"The Valkyrie" (p. 252, syst. 4), he explains the 
Valkyrie's fate to Erda, who is dazed by the 
change that has come upon the world; her wis- 
dom is powerless before the new order of things. 
But Wotan himself can face the downfall of the 
Eternals without dismay — he leaves gladly his 
heritage to the Vol^jung; and therewith is an- 
nounced the grandiose Theme of the World's 
Heritage (p. 257, syst. 3): 


It' t J: 

l Oif lf ' tr 

I Jin 0i jjljiPJlrcif 


He hopes that against the fearless hero, Alber- 
ich's curse will be impotent; and that Briinnhilde, 
awakened by him, will then achieve a deed to set 
free the world — the restitution of the ring. (Sieg- 
fried, the Volsung, p. 258, syst. i ; Valhalla, syst. 
2 ; Ring, syst. 4, — now in the clear F major, — 
the love theme originally associated with Sieglinde, 
p. 259, syst. I, as referable to the love which bore 
him Priinnhilde) and sends Erda back to her 
endless sleep. 

She disappears; and again the Bird's melody is 
heard. Siegfried and his guide are approaching. 
Wotan, still standing where he was, asks the boy 
whither he is going; questions him further as to 


The Ring of the Nibelung 

his doings; and as the boy recounts them, the 
themes that have been associated with them again 
pass before us. Wotan laughs in pleasure at the 
young fellow's sturdiness, which rouses his ire, 
and he bids the Wanderer stand from his way; 
then curiously asks him about his great hat, has 
missing eye. His impatience is increased at the 
old man's declaration that if he knew whom he 
was addressing, he would refrain from his scoffing 
(Motive of Wotan's Grim Humor, p. 272, syst. 2), 
and warns him against his wrath. That wrath 
rises, and with it increase the convolutions of the 
motive. Wotan attempts to restrain his progress 
toward the sleeping Briinnhilde, describes the sea 
of fire that surrounds her (Fire motive. Riding 
motive, p. 276). The glow of the flame appears 
high up on the mountain; with it Siegfried's im- 
patience increases (Siegfried, the Volsung, p. 277, 
syst. 3), and as Wotan tries to bar his way with 
the sacred spear, he hews it in pieces with his 
sword (Sword motive, p. 279, syst. 2). The mo- 
tive of Compact is heard, broken by pauses (syst. 
3). Wotan tells him to fare forth, he cannot 
stop him. Siegfried mounts toward the bright- 
ening glow; the music increases in richness and 
complexity. Among the motives here are those 
of Siegfried the Volsung (p. 280, syst. 2), Praise of 
the Rhine Gold (syst. 3), the various sections 
of the Bird's song; Siegfried's Horn Call (p. 281, 
syst. 3), and the Fire Motive (syst. 3). Siegfried 
disappears up the mountain side, while this gor- 
geous orchestral interlude is unrolled. The music 
gradually falls into the quieter strains of Briinn- 



hilde's Slumber Motive (p. 283, syst. 6), as the 
mountain side is hidden in a dissolving cloud. It 
sinks to the gentlest pianissimo as the cloud 
passes away and shows the mountain top upon 
which Briinnhilde lies asleep, as Wotan left her 
at the close of "The Valk)nie." A morning light 
gleams in the bright blue sky. In the orchestra is 
heard the mysterious harmonies of the Fate Mo- 
tive (p. 285, syst. i) followed by a thin thread of 
melody spun out of the Freia and the Slumber 
Motives (syst. 2, flF.). Siegfried appears over the 
rocky summit, gazing in amazement on the sight 
before him. The Fate harmonies come as if 
echoing his questionings, and the motive of the 
Enchainment of Love (x, p. 286, syst. 2, p. 287) 
accompanies them, forming much of the sub- 
stance of the music that follows. It is inter- 
rupted by a strain of Wotan's farewell song to 
Briinnhilde (p. 287, syst. i), but regains its su- 
premacy again as he continues to gaze at the 
sleeper. Finally he bends over her to remove her 
armor, and cuts its bands with his sword (Sword 
Motive, p. 289, syst. 2; Renunciation, syst. 3). 
Startled and astonished at the sight of the first 
woman he has ever seen, — "That is no man!" 
he cries, — he starts back, as the motive of Yearn- 
ing for Love bursts in a torrent from the orches- 
tra (p. 289, syst. 4). Now first, truly, he learns 
what fear is, and the quick rush of his emotions is 
embodied in a transformation and union of the 
themes of the Woes of the Volsungs (xxxii, 
p. 290, syst. 4), here given a new meaning, and of 
the Yearning for Love. He involuntarily calls on 

[85] ' 

The Ring of the Nibelung 

his mother for help — "A woman Ueth here 
asleep!" he murmurs, and Briinnhilde's Slumber 
Motive is murmured as gently in the orchestra 
(p. 293, syst. i); she has taught him to fear; the 
Freia Motive appears (syst. 2). How rouse her 
from her slumber? He bends over her and im- 
presses a kiss upon her mouth. The motive of 
Renunciation is drawn out in the linked sweetness 
of thirds to the most delicate pianissimo, yielding 
to the upward soaring of the Freia Motive. In a 
long, gradual crescendo the orchestra rises to the 
broad harmonies of Briinnhilde's Awakening 
Greeting to the Sun and the light of day. A 
prominent characteristic of it is the harmonic 
succession, E minor, C. major, E minor, D minor; 
and this is followed by a sonorous melody in 
thirds (p. 296, syst. 4): 

Lix. brUnnhilde's awakening 

This magnificent hymn is of a grandeur that 
finds few parallels in dramatic literature; and 
though it is developed with the greatest sym- 
phonic power, its true effect is essentially dra- 
matic. This motive leads into the Fate harmonies 
as Briinnhilde asks what hero has awakened her 
(p. 298, syst. i), and Siegfried, as in a trance, 
answers that he it was, as, beneath insistently 

' [86] 


repeated chords in an irregular rh)1;hm, his Heroic 
Theme breaks through (syst. 3). Then, as he 
bursts into an ecstasy of thanksgiving, the new 
theme of the Greeting of Love is added to the 
score (p. 300, syst. 2): 


Their love kindles in their contemplation of 
each other; and its ecstasy is expressed in another 
characteristic theme (p. 301, syst. 3): 


with which Siegfried's theme is closely united. 
A measure from the Death Prophecy (xxxixft) 
P- 30Sj syst. i) accompanies Briinnhilde's refer- 
ence to her disobedience, and then comes one from 
her song of Justification (xliii, p. 305, syst. 4); 
for Briinnhilde is thinking regretfully of her lost 
immortality (Valkyrie Motive, p. 308, syst. 4), and 
is terrified by Siegfried's passionate pleadings 
that she quench the fire that glows in his breast. 
In Valhalla all the heroes bent low before her 
(Valhalla, p. 313, syst. 3); now her lot is shame! 
There is a mournful touch of the theme of Renun- 


The Ring of the Nibelung 

ciation (p. 314, syst. i), and Siegfried, in the theme 
of the Worid's Inheritance (syst. 4) asks her to 
be to him not the slumbering maid but the wife. 
The gloomy tones of the Curse are heard (p. 316, 
syst. 2) as her dread overmasters her. Siegfried 
calms her fears, and the motive of the World's 
Inheritance persists (p. 317, syst. 3), till finally 
her spirit is dissuaded and the new Theme of 
Peace makes tranquil the spirit of the music (p, 
318, syst. 4): 


the accompanying figure of which is derived from 
the Slumber Motive. 

This is almost immediately joined to another 
new motive in praise of Siegfried as the World's 
Treasure (p. 319, syst. 3): 





Siegfried feels the tumultuous waves of "a glo- 
rious flood" within him; and the billows of that 
flood are represented in the orchestra by a varia- 
tion of that diminished form of the heroic Volsung 
Theme that has previously expressed his bewilder- 



ment at his first approach to Brunnhilde; or, as 
some consider it, a variant of the theme of Stren- 
uous Activity (p. 323, syst. 3). 

The passionate pleadings of the hero break 
down the woman's dread, till finally she herself 
acknowledges the surging flood, the raging fire 
within her — does he not fear her, the mad, furi- 
ous maid ? she asks in a vocal phrase that is the 
motive of Siegfried, the Volsung; while the im- 
petuous Valkyrie theme is hurled forth by the 
orchestra (p. 330, syst. 2, 3,). The orchestra takes 
the Volsung's phrase from her mouth, as she em- 
braces him impetuously. The Bird twitters mer- 
rily, as Siegfried declares that he has lost again 
all his fear; and presently comes a new theme, 
denoting their final union, the theme of Love's 
Resolve (p. 333, syst. 4) : 


Briinnhilde throws herself into Siegfried's arms; 
and with a magnificent crescendo in passionate 
power, in an outpouring of the ecstasy, the drama 
is closed. 



It is night upon the Valkyrie's rock. The three 
Noms sit there, winding the skein of the world's 
destinies in the gloom. They sing, telling of the 
destruction by Wotan of the World's Ash Tree 
from which he cut his spear, and under which 
once they wove. The ash tree withered and died; 
the spear, with its runes of treaties in the shaft, 
was shattered ; Wotan bade the heroes of Valhalla 
cut the tree and pile it around the castle; and 
when it bums, the castle will fall in ruins and 
with it the might of the gods. This prelude to 
the drama is a wonderful piece of dark tone- 
picturing, filled with a feeling of nameless dread. 
The opening is based on the harmonic progressions 
of Briinnhilde's Awakening, between which comes 
the figure of the Primeval Element, and above it 
the Norn's Theme, then, as if in questioning, the 
Theme of Fate (p. 2, syst. i). Further progress 
of the piece discloses a measured version of Loge's 
Fire Motive (p. 2, syst. 4), the Valhalla Motive 
(p. 5, syst. i), the Compact Theme (syst. 3), 
Dusk of the Gods (p. 6, syst. i), the Might of the 
Gods (p. 7, syst. i), the Ring (p. 10, syst. 4), as 
the final result of its curse, the downfall of the 
Gods, is spoken of, Loge's Motive in its original 
form (p. 12, syst. 4), the Twilight harmonies 
(p. 15, syst. 3), Alberich's Cry of Triumph (p. 17, 
syst. 2), Siegfried's Horn Call (syst. 4), the 
Curse (p. 18, syst. i), each with its own reference 


The Dusk of the Gods 

to the underlying causes of world-shattering events 
of which the Noms sung. Their skein breaks, 
their wisdom is at an end, and with the Curse 
Motive, the Twilight Motive, and the Theme of 
Fate, they sink out of sight, returning to Mother 
Erda (p. 19). The day begins to dawn, and its 
coming is shown forth by one of Wagner's won- 
derful nature-pictures, bringing warmth and color 
after the gray mystery of the Noms. There is an 
expanded and dignified version of Siegfried's 
Horn Call that now and hereafter is referable to 
Siegfried, the Hero (p. 19, syst. 3, 4), and then a 
new motive appears, characteristic of Brunnhilde, 
the woman (p. 20, syst. i). 





With the full daybreak appear Siegfried, fully 
armed, and Briinnhilde, leading her horse, and 
we learn the new Heroic Siegfried Motive, and 
the Valk}nie Motive in close companionship (p. 21, 
syst. i). Brunnhilde sends forth her hero to new 
deeds of valor. She has given him all her knowl- 
edge, all she has. Another new motive voices her 
Heroic Love (p. 21, syst. 4): 



The Ring of the Nibelung 

derived from that variant of the Heroic Motive 
of the Volsungs, that so frequently accompanied 
Siegfried's early passion in the preceding drama. 
The Greeting of Love is heard (p. 22, syst. 4), 
but it is chiefly from the last two with the broad- 
ened Horn Call (p. 23, syst. 4; p. 25, syst. 2, ff.) 
that this superb and impassioned scene of fare- 
well is developed. Siegfried gives her his ring as 
a pledge (Ring Motive, p. 29, syst. 2 ; p. 30, syst. 2), 
and she returns the gift with Grane, her horse 
(Valkyrie Motive, p.30 , syst. 3, 4, etc.; Ride 
Motive, p. 31, syst. 3). Siegfried's Song of Wan- 
dering is suggested (p. 33, syst, 3; p. 35, syst. i), 
and comes at length more frequently forward. 
As they finally part, a long orchestral interlude 
begins, which pictures Siegfried's journey up the 
Rhine, an immensely animated and picturesque 
description, in which the chief components are 
Siegfried's Song of Wandering, Brunnhilde's 
Theme, the Greeting of Love, Siegfried's Horn 
Call, the Flight Motive (as it appears joined with 
that of Siegfried's Love, in The Valkyrie, p. 39, 
syst. 3), Loge's Dancing Flames (p. 40, syst. 4); 
then, the billowy figure of the Primeval Element 
(p. 41, syst. 5), Praise of the Rhine Gold (p. 43, 
syst. i), the Rhine Gold fanfare (syst. 2), Re- 
nunciation (syst. 4), the Ring (p. 44, syst. i), 
and the Rhine Gold fanfare, repeated, is an- 
swered by Alberich's baleful Cry of Triumph (p. 
44, syst. 4). 

Here closes the pi elude, and the curtain parts 
upon the first scene, showing the Hall of the Gibi- 
chungs, on the bank of the Rhine. There are 


The Dusk of the Gods 

Gunther, Gutrune and their half brother Hagen, 
Black Alberich's swarthy son, whose works of 
darkness are suggested by the Hagen Motive (p. 
45, syst. i). One of the most significant and fre- 
quently recurring features of which is the interval 
of the "tritone'' in the bass (D-^): 


It comes in immediate connection with the 
motive of covetousness, which now is transferred 
to denote the race of the Gibichungs (syst. 2, ff.). 
Hagen urges the necessity of a wife for Gunther, 
a husband for Gutrune, to enhance the lustre of 
the family name. Freia's Motive is suggested 
(p. 47, syst. I, 3,): Briinnhilde he mentions for 
Gunther, and with the mention are associated the 
Valkyrie Motive (p. 47, syst. 4), the Fire chro- 
matics (p. 48, syst. i), and a snatch of the Bird's 
song (syst. 2, 3,), Siegfried alone could win her 
(Heroic Theme of the Volsungs, p. 49, syst. i; 
the Horn Call, and Sword motive, syst. 3). For 
Gutrune he chooses Siegfried, and he tells them 
of his deeds, for which the appropriate and fa- 
miliar themes are employed (the Dragon, p. 50, 
syst. 3; the Sword, syst. 4; the Ring, p. 51, syst. i; 
Rhine Gold fanfare, syst. 2; Alberich's Cry of 
Triumph, syst. 3; Valkyrie, syst. 3). Bv trickery 
and magic can Briinnhilde be won for 'Gunther. 


The Ring of the Nibelung 

Hagen has a potion, and as he describes its 
love spell, the Freia Motive is heard (p. 54, syst. 
3), the Tamhelm Motive (p. 55, syst. i), and the 
first suggestion of a motive later to appear in 
more characteristic form, as referring to Hagen's 
potion (Theme of Deception by Magic, Ixx, 
p. 55, syst. 2). Gunther is enthusiastic over the 
scheme. Siegfried's approach affords the oppor- 
tunity to carry it through. His Horn Call comes 
from a distance (p. 56, syst. 2, ff.), and the Praise 
of the Rhine Gold (p. 58, syst. 3), now and again 
united, and then a vigorous statement of the Ring 
Motive (p. 59, syst. 4). To Hagen's hail Siegfried 
answers, accompanied by the motive of the Gibi- 
chungs (p. 60, syst. 2), and Hagen's cry of welcome 
is ominously sounded above the Curse Motive 
(p. 61, syst. 2). Siegfried lands, and his horse is 
cared for by Hagen. 

Siegfried's answer proffers his life and his sword 
(Heroic Theme of the Volsungs, p. 65, syst. i ; the 
Ecstasy of Love, syst. 2; the Forging Themes, 
Smithy Motive, Sword Motive, syst. 3). Hagen 
asks if he is not the possessor of the Nibelung's 
treasure (Smithy, Rising Hoard, syst. 4). Sieg- 
fried admits it, but makes light of it. The Tam- 
helm he has, not knowing its use, which Hagen 
forthwith tells him (Tamhelm, p. 67, syst. i), and 
then reminds him of the Ring (Ring, syst. 3), 
which he has given to Briinnhilde (Heroic Love, 
Ixvi, syst. 3). Now comes Gutrune carrying 
a drinking horn with Hagen's potion and the 
orchestra discloses the motive of Gutrune's Greet- 
ing (p. 68, syst. 2\ 


The Dusk of the Gods 


immediately connected with her Theme of Love : 


She offers him the potion, and murmuring his 
devotion to Briinnhilde, he drinks it to her (Greet- 
ing of Love, the World's Heritage, p. 69, syst. i). 
Immediately follows the theme of the Deception 
by Magic (p. 69, syst. 2) : 


P^-H * ' 

closely analogous with the vague Tamhelm har- 
monies. At once Briinnhilde vanishes from his 
mind, and looking upon Gutrune with a sudden 
burst of passion, he addresses her in vehement 
strains, to an orchestral passage developed from 
the theme of Gutrune's Greeting. Alberich's 
Curse sounds warningly (p. 72, syst. i), and as 


The Ring of the Nibelung 

Siegfried asks Gunther if he has a wife, Briinn- 
hilde's Motive faintly ascends from the orchestra 
(syst. 2). No, is Gunther's reply (Valkyrie Mo- 
tive, syst. 3), and he hopes to win the one on 
whom he has set his heart. Whom can he not 
win, replies Siegfried, with him as his friend ? and 
we hear the theme of the Ecstasy of Love (syst. 4). 
And as Gunther tells of her mountain home and 
the surrounding wall of fire, Loge's chromatics 
and the Bird's song are sounded, and the Magic 
Deception keeps all remembrance from Siegfried's 
mind (p. 73, syst. 3). Siegfried fears no fire 
(Loge's Motive, p. 74, syst. i, etc.), and Gunther 
shall have this maid if he gives him Gutrune for 
his wife. By the Tamhelm's power he will be- 
guile her. The Curse Motive casts its shadow 
(p. 75, syst. 3), the Fire Theme flickers again, the 
Sword Theme rings out (p. 76, syst. 2). They 
agree to swear Blood-Brotherhood, and the Com- 
pact Motive confirms their agreement (syst. 3). 
The ceremony is picturesque, of immemorial an- 
tiquity, performed over a horn of wine that Hagen 
brings, each dropping a drop of his own blood into 
it from a cut he makes in his arm. The charac- 
teristic dissonant "tritone" in the bass of Hagen's 
Motive recurs through this scene, with ominous 
significance (p. 76, syst. 5; p. 77, syst. 2, etc.) — 
especially since he himself takes no part in it, — 
as does Alberich's Curse (p. 78, syst. 3, etc.). 
The theme of Compact lends its weight of author- 
ity (p. 77, syst. 3, etc.). The theme to which 
Gunther and Siegfried sing the formula is this 
(p. 77, syst. 3): 


The Dusk of the Gods 


Bridit Pin Bru dw dm Buadi TtiiRt den Tm - •• dw Plmiad, 
Bfdkt {f «'ar Ir «• kimd, /mitt if JrUm4 kf It /Hf«4 

Especially to be noted here is the emphatic 
downward stroke that is used in connection with 
it, now a fifth (as at p. 76, syst. 5, and p. 79, 
syst. i), followed, same line, by the interval of 
Hagen's tritone, but most characteristically an 
octave, as at p. 78, syst. 4. This octave frequently 
recurs in future references to this matter. 

The two start at once to fetch the bride, the 
Hagen, Valk3nie, Gutrune, and Loge Motives ac- 
compan5nng their embarcation on Siegfried's boat. 
Hagen seats himself to guard the entrance to the 
hall. The strange tritone sounds heavily in the 
bass, the Horn Call is given a new, ominous turn 
in a diminished seventh chord, and the syncopations 
of the Nibelung's Work of Destruction continue 
their monotonous beat, as he sits on his guard and 
reflects on the coming of Briinnhilde, with the 
Ring. Alberich's Cry of Triumph adds its lower- 
ing strains (p. 84, syst. 4; p. 85, syst. 2), and the 
themes of Siegfried, the Valkyrie (syst. 2 ; syst. 4), 
and of Renunciation (p. 86, syst. 2, 4), the Rhine 
Gold fanfare (syst. 3), the Ring (p. 87, syst. 2) 
unite to make this gloomy interlude, during which 
the curtain is drawn. Brunnhilde's Motive (p. 88, 
syst. 3, 5), the Greeting of Love (syst. 4, 6), and 
strains of the motive of Briinnhilde's Awakening 
(p. 88, syst. 6; p. 89, syst. 4) lead to the next 
scene, showing us Briinnhilde seated on her rock, 
gazing silently at Siegfried's ring on her finger. 


The Ring of the Nibelung 

The theme of Siegfried, the World's Treasure (p. 
90, syst. i) gives voice to her thoughts. The 
galloping figure of the Valkyries (p. 90, syst. j; 
p. 90, syst. 2, etc.), the Valkyrie Motive (syst. 3), 
the Cry (syst. 4), the rush of descending chromatic 
sixth chords (p. 91, syst. i) all notify the coming 
of one of the sisterhood, and in a storm cloud 
rides Waltraute. A rush of motives from "The 
Valkyrie" and "Siegfried" floods Briinnhilde's 
eager questioning of her sister, and her relation of 
what has befallen her. But for nothing of this 
has Waltraute come. She has direful tidings of 
Wotan and Valhalla. The motive of Wotan's 
Grim Humor rules much of her recital (p. 99, 
syst. 2, etc.). No more are the Wish Maidens 
sent to the field of battle; through the world 
wandered Wotan (motive of the God's Plight, p. 
100, syst. 4). His spear was splintered (Compact, 
p. 1 01, syst. 2) when he returned (Valhalla). 
The World's Ash Tree he had cut down and 
piled before the castle (motive of the God's 
Might, p. 102, syst. i), and there he sits, grave 
and mute, surrounded by his heroes (broadened 
Valhalla Theme, p. 102, syst. 2, etc.; Fate Motive, 
p. 103, syst. 2). The Golden Apples he no more 
tastes (Golden Apples, xiii, p. 103, syst. 3). 
Forth from Valhalla he sends his ravens, seeking 
tidings *(Alberich's Cry of Triumph, p. 104, syst. 
2, 3, 4). Round his knees cower the Valkyries 
(in Wotan's Grim Humor, syst. 4). Then he re- 
members Briinnhilde — a strain from his farewell 
song is heard (p. 105, syst. 2) — and sighs, speaks 
the words, if ever the River Maidens win from 


The Dusk of the Gods 

her hands again the Ring, free from the Curse 
would be the god and the world. (Praise of the 
Rhine Gold, p. 105, syst. 2; Ring, syst. 2; Alber- 
ich's Curse, syst. 3; Valhalla, syst. 4). It is with 
this prayer that she comes to Briinnhilde — give 
up the Ring, end all the grief of the gods (Re- 
nunciation, p. 107, syst. i). But Briinnhilde will 
hear nothing of all this — evil fancies, they are ; 
and the Grim Humor of Wotan is transferred to 
her (p. 107, syst. i). From the Compact Motive 
is evolved another with an important part to play 
in "The Dusk of the Gods," that may be called 
the Tangled Thread of Fate. "Dark and wild 
seemeth thy speech," sings Briinnhilde, and thus 
the orchestra expresses it (p. 107, syst. ^): 


She scorns the idea of casting Siegfried's pledge 
of love into the Rhine. The Ring Motive now 
sounds more and more insistently as Waltraute 
urges her request (p. 109), and with it, on Briinn- 
hilde's part, are heard strains of her Awakening 
Motive (p. 109, syst. i), the theme of the World's 
Heritage (p. no, syst. 4), then her own motive 
(p. Ill, syst. 2) and the motive of Love's Greeting 
(syst. 3) as Briinnhilde hymns the praises of the 
Ring and the preciousness of Siegfried's love, 
which it represents to her. The music is worked 
up into a development of the themes of Grim 


The Ring of the Nibelung 

Humor (p. iii, syst. 3), Renunciation (p. 112, 
syst. I, 2), the Ring (syst. 3), the Curse (p. 112, 
syst. 4; p. 113, syst. i); and amidst the wild Val- 
kyrie Motives Waltraute rushes away in anguish. 
This, then, is the second tragic fault of Briinn- 
hilde which speedily works for her sorrow and her 
downfall. Evening comes on, and as she sits 
thoughtfully, the fire light blazes up again around 
her mountain (Magic Fire, p. 116). It must be 
that Siegfried approaches, and she starts up in 
delight (Siegfried's Motive, p. 117, syst. 3; Horn 
Call, syst. 4), to meet him. But as Siegfried 
bursts through the wall of flame she draws back 
in terror. The Tamhelm has given him the form 
and appearance of Gunther. "Betrayed," she 
cries, and the mystic harmonies of the Tamhelm 
are sounded, followed by the correlative Magic 
Deception, and then the Gibichung Motive (p. 
119, syst. 2, 3). Siegfried, all memory of Briinn- 
hilde blotted from his mind by the power of 
Hagen's potion, announces that he is Gunther, 
come as her wooer, whom she must follow, and 
Brunnhilde bursts out into imprecations against 
the faithless Wotan, as she deems him, for re- 
laxing the protecting power of the fiery walls 
around her. Springing toward her (Hagen's bass, 
the syncopations of the Nibelung's Work of De- 
struction, are heard leading into the Tamhelm 
and Magic Deception harmonies) Siegfried tells 
her she must be his bride (motive of the Menial, 
p. 123, syst. I, 2): he wrests the ring from her, 
resisting violently, and drags her fainting to the 
entrance of the cave. Alberich's Cry of Triumph 


The Dusk of the Gods 

(p. 124, syst. 2), the Ring, the Valk)rrie, the 
Curse, finally the theme of the World's Heritage 
and BriinnMlde's own motive, accompany the 
struggle, by which she is forced to be Gunther's 
bride. The syncopated beats of the Destructive 
Work of the Nibelung are as the panting breath 
of the exhausted woman. Siegfried follows her 
into the cave, drawing his sword that shall lie 
between them that night, preserving his faith with 
his blood-brother, as the resounding octaves that 
accompanied the theme of the Blood-Brotherhood 
and the Sword Motive, connected with the motive 
of Compact, are heard (p. 127, syst. 2); then 
Gutrune's Motive, (syst. 4), the Sword (p. 128, 
syst. i), the pompous octave, the Tamhelm, the 
Magic Deception. Briinnhilde's Motive, sadly in 
minor, recalls the joyous first night on Siegfried's 
breast; and the end comes in the mysterious har- 
monies of the Tamhelm. The malignant work 
of Hagen is accomplished. The Volsung, swayed 
by the magic of his potion, has betrayed his bride, 
for Gunther, who knows not that Briinnhilde is 
already the wife of another. 

The second act opens under the baleful influ- 
ences of the Nibelung and his son. The beating 
syncopations of the Nibelung's Work of Destruc- 
tion, the heavy fall of Hagen's discordant bass, and 
Alberich's Cry of Triumph, sound through the 
night, 'where Hagen still sits, guarding the Hall, 
in full armor, but asleep. Alberich crouches be- 
fore him and addresses him in his sleep. His 
hatred of all joy is suggested by the motive of 
Renunciation (p. 132, syst. 3), as he urges him to 


The Ring of the Nibelung 

hate the happy, to be crafty, strong and bold; 
tells him of his plight, the theft of the Ring; how 
Wotan lost dominion through the Volsungs (dis- 
torted Valhalla Theme, p. 134, syst. 4), and how 
the gods must all fall. They two will win the 
world, if Hagen's faith remains true; and with 
this comes the new motive of- Murder (p. 135, 
syst. 3): 



Around which flicker Loge's chromatics. The 
Ring must be won from the Volsung; his undoing 
alone will serve. Hagen swears fidelity and Al- 
berich disappears. The Ring motive, Siegfried's 
Horn Call, the motive of Renunciation, the 
Theme of Murder, the frequently recurring s)ni- 
copations, the Rhine Daughters (p. 138, syst. i), 
the Giants (p. 138, syst. 3, 4), make up the musi- 
cal substance of the scene. Alberich summons 
Hagen to swear to him, with the distorted Val- 
halla Motive (p. 139, syst. 3). Alberich himself 
swears by his own Curse (p. 140, syst. 2), and his 
injunction to fidelity, "Be true!" brings back the 
motive of the Menial (syst. 4). 

Day dawns, and the gloomy motives of the 
malignant intriguers give way to music of a more 
cheerful quality. The theme is that of the 
Awakening Day (p. 141, syst. 3): 


The Dusk of the Gods 



Siegfried returns from his unhappy errand, re- 
counting his success on Brunnhilde's Rock, and 
asking for Gutrune (motive of Gutrune's Greet- 
ing, p. 143, syst. I, 3, etc.). He relates his ad- 
ventures to her. (The Magic Fire, the Gibichung, 
the Valk)nie, the Tamhelm, the Magic Deception 
are chiefly in evidence, with the motive of Yearn- 
ing for Love as an accompaniment figure, p. 144, 
syst. 2, etc.). He quiets her scruples as to his 
night with Briinnhilde, after her somewhat cir- 
cumstantial examination of him, by pointing to 
his sword, which lay between them, as the de- 
cisive octaves of the Blood-Brotherhood theme 
ring out. Hagen discerning the boat bearing 
Gunther and Briinnhilde (motive of the Awaken- 
ing Day, p. 149, syst. i), Gutrune goes to prepare 
a welcome for her brother's bride (Gutrune's 
Love Motive, syst. 4), and Hagen blows his cow 
horn to assemble the vassals of the Gibichungs 
for the coming wedding feast. The motive hero 
is a section of the theme of the Awakening Day, 
yet with the sinister inflection that Hagen's influ- 
ence gives it, through that strange recurring dis- 
sonant interval. Hagen calls to arms, to meet 
coming need — which is the joyous wedding cere- 
mony impending. (The Motive of the Dusk of the 

The Ring of the Nibelung 

Gods, p. 152, syst. I, points to impending catas- 
trophe.) The vassals gather with uncouth cries, 
and the chorus that ensues is a wonderful piece of 
boisterous, humorous barbarity, of a piece with 
the scene and the surroundings. An accompani- 
ment figure is employed here (p. 159, syst. i) 
which, while it has a reminder of the Gibichung 
Motive in transformed rhythms, points also to the 
orchestral accompaniment to Siegfried's song at 
the anvil. It passes into the Gibichung Motive 
(p. 157, syst. i). A phrase from Gutrune's Love 
Motive is frequently used here and later as a 
Wedding Call (as on p. 158, syst. 2). Hagen 
calls for offerings to the gods (and the phrase is a 
reminiscence of Mime's smooth compliments and 
self-appreciation to Siegfried, p. 163, syst. 3), also 
for a carousal, at which the vassals break into 
uproarious laughter and unite in a great chorus 
of greeting, preluded by Hagen's characteristic 
figure (p. 167, syst. i) and based on a phrase from 
the theme of the Awakening Day (p. 168, syst. i), 
and the Wedding Call variant of Gutrune's Greet- 
ing (syst. 4). Through a magnificent crescendo 
this is worked up and carried over into a swelling 
wedding march that greets the arrival of Gunther 
and his unwilling bride, Briinnhilde, in their boat 
(p. 175, syst. 3): 



The Dusk of the Gods 


r Jti^Ei/l 

"i'mi^'^iii ^w 

Briinnhilde, with bowed head, steps forth, led 
by Gunther, who presents her to the vassals. The 
Valkyrie Motive is ominously suggested (p. 177, 
syst. I ; p. 179, syst. i); the Wedding Call with rich 
chromatic harmony and Briinnhilde's Motive are 
brought together in alternation (p. 179, syst. 2). 
Briinnhilde has not yet looked up ; but as Gunther 
pronounces the words " Gutrune and Siegfried " the 
orchestra bursts out in a sudden climax and crash, 
and Briinnhilde raises her head, fixing her gaze 
on Siegfried in astonishment. Pianissimo, the 
Fate harmonies throw their baleful suggestion 
upon the situation (p. 180, syst. 3). All are as- 
tonished; some wonder softly what ails her. 
"Siegfried here?" she asks. He tranquilly re- 
plies that he has won Gunther's sister, as Gun- 
ther has won her. "He lies," she cries, and is as 
one in a swoon. The Fate Motive sounds (p. 181, 
syst. 4). Briinnhilde's own motive accompanies 
her anguished whisper, "Siegfried knows me not." 
She sees the ring upon his finger (Ring, Curse 
and Renunciation Motives, p. 184, syst. 3, 4), and 
with suppressed excitement she asks how it came 
there, since it was wrested from her not by him, 
but by Gunther — for so Siegfried seemed to her, 
through the Tamhelm's magic (the Nibelung's 
Work of Destruction is indicated through all this 
passage, p. 183). Gunther, in great perplexity, 

The Ring of the Nibelung 

says he gave Siegfried nothing (Magic Deception, 
p. 184, syst. 4: Rhine Gold fanfare in minor, p. 
185, syst. 2). Now Briinnhilde's rage flames up: 
Ha, she cries; Siegfried it was who robbed her 
— Siegfried the traitor and thief : (Motive of the 
Tangled Threads of Fate (p. 186, syst. i). No, 
he replies, he won it from a dragon. (Praise of 
the Riine Gold, Giants, Rhine Daughters, p. 186, 
syst. 4; p. 187, syst, i). If Brunnhilde knows the 
ring, and it is the one Gunther took from her, 
then it is his, and Siegfried has it by guile, for 
which he must atone — so argues Hagen, almost 
laying his hand upon the accomplishment of his 
father's purpose (Curse, p. 187, syst. 3; Deception 
by Magic, syst. 4). Brunnhilde bursts out with a 
storm of denimciation of the shameful betrayal, 
and the Ring Motive descends as in a flood. Her 
outburst is further accompanied by the Valhalla 
Motive (p. 190, syst. i), a fragment of her Justi- 
fication (syst. 2), the Flight Motive (p. 191, syst. i) 
and a passage of chord formations based on the 
successions of the Twilight Motive, as it appeared 
when Wotan cast her into her magic sleep (p. 191, 
syst. 3, 4). Vehemently she pushes aside Gun- 
ther with his attempts to calm her (the accom- 
paniment to the vassal's charms reappears here 
p. 192, syst. 2; and the Tangled Threads of Fate, 
syst. 3) and proclaims to all present that Siegfried 
is her husband — he forced from her delight and 
love (Renunciation, p. 193, syst. 3 ; Tangled 
Threads of Fate, p. 194, syst. i, 2). Siegfried 
denies it. His plighted Blood-Brotherhood (the 
octaves) Nothung, (Sword and Compact Motives, 


The Dusk of the Gods 

p. 194, syst. 4) which lay between them, parted 
them in honor. (Tangled Threads of Fate, p. 
195, syst. 2). Briinnhilde declares that Nothung 
hung on the wall in its sheath, when its lord won 
his true love (Briinnhilde's Heroic Love, p. 195, 
syst. 2, etc.). Profound sensation among the 
vassals; all urge Siegfried to cast the slander 
from him with an oath. The phrase of Blood- 
Brotherhood is twice repeated (p. 198, syst. 4; 
p. 199, syst. i), with an emphatically broadened 
version of the Theme of the Tangled Threads of 
Fate, and Siegfried swears upon the point of 
Hagen's spear to these strains (p. 199, syst. 2) : 


Hel . ie Wahr, 

bei . U-g« Whf > M 
Ul • Imt-W wm f ^ 

1= ,^ 

the similarity of which to Alberich's Curse is to be 

With a quick, fierce rush of the Valk)nie^s Cry 
and the Riding Motive (p. 200, syst. 4) Briinn- 
hilde breaks in and putting her hand upon the 
spear point swears her oath, that by that spear 
point he shall perish, for broken are all his vows. 
The chorus cries out, and after a fiery recapitula- 
tion of Briinnhilde's Heroic Love (p. 203, syst. 3) 
more calmly continued as Siegfried recommends 
rest and quiet for the "untamed mountain maid," 
(with a suggestion of the motive of Reflection p. 


The Ring of the Nibelung 

205, syst. 2), he calls for the feast to go on with 
the Wedding Call (p. 206, syst. 4) which is de- 
veloped with grandiose sonority. He goes off 
with Gutrime, followed by the vassals, leaving 
Gunther and Hagen behind, with Brunnhilde. 
The music takes a gloomier color, as Brunnhilde 
gazes sadly after the couple; the Renunciation 
Theme (p. 208, syst. 5) and the syncopations of 
Nibelung's Work of Destruction are united with 
the harmonies of the theme of the Deception by 
Magic (p. 209, syst. i), and the spectre of the 
motive of Murder is outlined (p. 209, syst. 2, 3) 
followed by the Fate harmonies (syst. 5). Briinn- 
hilde sadly wonders what wisdom she has for 
this riddle — all her wisdom she has given him 
(theme of the World's Heritage, p. 210, syst. 2). 
The motive of Murder bursts out as a despairing 
cry (p. 211, syst. 3) followed by the motive of the 
Menial joined with Hagen's Theme in the bass 
(syst. 4). These two are now used together as a 
motive indicative of the league of revenge in 
which Hagen seeks to enlist Briinnhilde's aid. 
The motive of the Oath (p. 212, syst. i), accom- 
panies his suggestion, to which she at first answers 
in scorn that a glance from his eye would wither 
all his courage; a state of mind subtly bodied 
forth by the theme of the World's Heritage, in 
strange, new harmonies (syst. 3) together with the 
Magic Deception. He knows Siegfried's might; 
but she shall tell him his vulnerable point. She 
has thrown a protecting spell about the hero 
(theme of the Ecstasy of Love, p. 214, syst. 3) 
yet (Destructive Work of the Nibelung) if he 


The Dusk of the Gods 

strikes at his back — (League of Revenge, p. 216, 
syst. 2). He turns to Gunther, who bewails his 
lot (motive of Renunciation p. 219, syst. 3), tell- 
ing him that naught will avail for his honor but 
Siegfried's death (Murder Motive, syst. 4). The 
oath of Blood-Brotherhood restrains him; but 
Hagen declares that Siegfried betrayed him, and 
adds as a further argument that the possession of 
the ring would give him dominion over all the 
world. The thought of Gutrune, Siegfried's 
spouse, gives him pause (Gutrune's two motives, 
p. 223, syst. 4); Hagen suggests a boar hunt, 
wherein the hero may come to his death. Gun- 
ther is persuaded (League of Revenge, p. 225, 
syst. 4), and the three vow together that Siegfried 
shall die. The sinister music voicing their death 
dealing plans is suddenly interrupted by the jubi- 
lation of the bridal procession issuing from the 
hall ; this harsh contrast is continued to the speedy 
close of the act, — the Wedding Call with the 
motive of Murder; and upon the harsh strains of 
the latter the curtain drops. 

The third act opens upon a wild valley on the 
Rhine. The boar hunt is to come; Siegfried's 
clear call is heard, and with it Hagen's, in the 
stubborn semitone of the motive of the Menial. 
This gives place to the flowing measures of the 
Primeval Element, and the Praise of the Rhine 
Gold. The fanfare of the Rhine Gold cuts 
through it (p. 232, syst. 5). The three Rhine 
Maidens are disporting themselves in the stream, 
and the orchestra sets forth a prelude to that 
incomparably graceful and melodious trio in which 


The Ring of the Nibehing 

they sing their joys and their regretful memories 
of the lost gold. The picture is first of their 
swimming. Its chief elements are thes^: 



They sing thus: 

Fhui Son 

/Imt mm 


- det Uch-to Stnh - tea^ 


d«r Ti« - fei 

fi IJ iiijdiiiri fiifiiiiii ^iiifiTM 

hell — da heil und liehr_ desVa-ten Gold iwch iirihr glaaji tol 

Siegfried's Horn Call indicates his approach; he 
has wandered away from his companions in the 
hunt, and stands on the bank looking at the water 
nixies, who banter him, asking what he would 
give them if they promised him a bag. " Ask what 
ye will," he answers (Rhine Gold fanfare, p. 246, 
syst. 5). The ring on his finger, they say, as the 


The Dusk of the Gods 

Ring Motive points their reply (p. 247, syst. i), 
and when he refuses, accuse him of miserliness. 
Siegfried is a bit annoyed at this, and is about to 
throw them the ring, when they gravely tell him 
to keep it, till the ill fate it brings has reached 
him, when he will fain be freed by them from its 
Curse (Curse Motive, p. 255, syst. 2; motive of the 
Menial, p. 256, syst. i; Smithy, syst. 2; Praise 
of the Rhine Gold, syst. 2). Only the stream 
can stay it (Dusk of the Gods, p. 257, syst. 2). 
But Siegfried will not be frightened into doing 
what he was willing to do of his own accord, and 
puts the ring back upon his finger. Again they 
warn him of the curse woven by the Noms, and 
that Weaving Motive, as it appeared in the pre- 
lude of the drama, briefly returns. The sisters 
sing of the blindness of Siegfried — oaths he swore 
and heeded not; runes he reads, and recks not; a 
glorious gift was his — that he lost it he knows 
not. A proud woman will that day his wealth 
inherit — she will heed their prayer. They dis- 
appear with the Curse Motive. At once Hagen's 
horn is heard, which Siegfried answers with his, 
as the hunting party comes up to rest and pre- 
pare a meal. The activity of the scene is accom- 
panied by a development of Siegfried's Horn Call, 
» the Wedding Call, the Rhine Daughter's song (p. 
275) the Gibichung Motive (p. 277, syst, i, etc.); 
and as Siegfried speaks of the Rhine Daughters' 
warning that he should that day be slain, the 
combination of themes in the League of Revenge 
is heard (p. 278, syst. 3). Siegfried offers drink 
to Gunther to cheer his darkling spirit (Wedding 


The Ring of the Nibelung 

Call, p. 279, syst. 4; Blood-Brotherhood, p. 280, 
syst. i), but Gunther looks at it with horror; and 
the tricky Loge's figure plays about the situation. 
Hagen suggests that Siegfried can understand the 
speech of birds (p. 282, Bird song, syst. 2), and to 
divert the gloomy Gunther, Siegfried offers to 
tell him the wondrous adventures of his boyhood. 
Siegfried's tale brings before us a vision of all the 
vivid and picturesque happenings from the first 
pages of "Siegfried," with a ricKly suggestive re- 
capitulation of the appropriate themes ; the Smithy 
Motive; Mime's crooning song (p. 204, syst. 2), 
the Sword Motive and the Nothung phrase (syst. 
3), the motive of Reflection and the Dragon Mo- 
tive. Under a whispering violin arpeggio figure 
comes the theme of the Woes of the Volsungs 
(p. 285, syst. 2), then the Sounds of the Forest (p. 
286, syst. 3), and Siegfried sings the tune of the 
Bird's Song (p. 287, syst. i). When Siegfried 
reaches the death of Mime, in his story, Hagen 
secretly drops a magic juice into his drinking 
horn, and bids the hero drink of it, telling him 
that it will refresh his remembrance — it is a 
juice to take away the forgetfulness of the magic 
draught. The uncanny harmonies of the Tarn- 
helm (p. 291, syst. i), and of the Deception (syst. 
2) follow, and at once Briinnhilde's theme is heard 
as though the first sign of his returning memory. 
He goes on to tell of the Bird's counsel and guid- 
ance of him toward Briinnhilde's rock, of his 
awakening of the sleeping Valk)rrie, and with 
Siegfried's access of ecstasy in the telling, the 
theme of Fate (p. 294, syst. 3), and an enriched 


The Dusk of the Gods 

version of the Slumber Motive (syst. 4), pass 
through the orchestra. Finally with the themes 
of the World's Heritage and the Awakening of 
Brunnhilde (p. 295, syst. 3), he reaches in rapture 
the climax of his story — "then, like flames of 
fire enfolded me beauteous Briinnhilde's arms!" 

Gunther starts up in dismay. The Curse Mo- 
tive with the motive of the Menial in the bass 
(p. 296, syst. 2) crash through the orchestra. 
Wotan's fateful ravens fly by, and as Siegfried 
starts up to look at them, Hagen, with a great 
cry of "Vengeance is their decree," thrusts his 
spear into the hero's back. In a wild outburst 
Siegfried's Heroic Theme, twisted and wrecked 
in minor dissonant harmonies, rises (syst. 3), as 
Siegfried turns, swinging his shield on high in an 
effort to crush his slayer; but his strength fails 
him, and he falls back upon it himself. All are 
horrified. Brokenly pulsing through the orches- 
tra, comes a figure that voices the feelings of the 
assemblage : 


followed by the Fate Motive (p. 293, syst. i); 
and as Hagen proclaims that he did the deed as 
the punishment for treachery, the Blood-Brother- 
hood Motive comes. Siegfried, supported by two 
men, opens his eyes and, calls upon Brunnhilde; 

The Ring of the Nibelung 

once more the harmonies and the upward roUing 
arpeggios of Briinnhilde's Awakening greet him, 
as they did on the fiery summit. Now he pours 
out his dying soul in a longing, passionate apos- 
trophe to her. The succeeding themes are those 
of Fate (p. 298, syst. 4), Siegfried the Volsung 
(p. 299, syst. i), Love's Greeting (p. 300, syst. i). 
Love's Ecstasy (s)rst. 3); and as the Fate Motive 
once more is whispered, the hero is dead. The 
great orchestral interlude that follows, accom- 
panying the funeral procession, is one of the 
majestic and soul-shattering climaxes of the Tri- 
logy; The Funeral March it is called, and in it 
are recapitulated all the tragic experiences of the 
race of Volsungs; as Wolzogen observes, all the 
sensuous, all the passionate, all the tragical in 
them is here raised to the higher power of the 
spiritual. The music speaks through the themes, 
— connected and transfigured by the Figure of 
Mourning — of the Woes of the Volsungs (p. 301, 
syst. 2), the Heroic Theme of the Volsungs (syst. 
5; second phrase, p. 302, syst. 2), Sieglinde's Sym- 
pathy (p. 302, syst. 2) and her Love; these recall- 
ing the origin and the relation of the hero to the 
fateful circle of events now closing around. Then 
it reaches a clear, keen, climax in the Sword Mo- 
tive (p. 303, syst. i), followed by the theme of 
Siegfried, the Volsung (syst. 3), and the broadened 
and ennobled form of the Horn Call that has ac- 
companied him in the prelude of "The Dusk of the 
Gods" (p. 304, syst. i). Finally, the tender 
theme of Briinnhilde brings this mighty tone poem 
to its close (p. 304, syst. 5). With its passage into 


The Dusk of the Gods 

the third scene (representing night in the Hall of 
the Gibichungs, with the moonlight reflected from 
the Rhine) come Alberich's Cry of Triumph (p. 
305, syst. i), and the broadened Horn Call in 
sad, minor harmonies. Gutrune enters; she is 
disturbed by evil dreams; her motive of Greeting 
accompanies her in minor harmonies (syst. 3), 
and the Fate question (syst. 4). The minor version 
of Siegfried's Horn Call that plays so prominent 
a part in " The Dusk of the Gods " is insistently 
repeated, with its premonitions of evil (syst. 3, ff.). 
Brunnhilde is not in her chamber; she has gone 
to the shore (Briinnhilde's Motive, syst. 3, and the 
Tangled Threads of Fate in the bass, syst. 4), 
Hagen's voice outside with his characteristic mo- 
tives (p. 307, syst. 3), announces his approach; 
he calls for torches, calls for Gutrune to greet 
Siegfried, who no more will wind his horn, no 
more will fight or hunt or woo winsome women 
(Blood-Brotherhood Theme, followed by the theme 
of Renunciation, p. 308, syst. 4). They bring the 
hero's body and set the bier down in the middle 
of the hall. A wild boar killed him, declares 
Hagen; and here there appears (p. 309, syst. 4), a 
furious downward rushing chromatic figure that 
appears frequently in the ensuing scene to denote 
Gutrune's despair. She is beside herself with 
grief. The rhythmic strokes of the Figure of 
Mourning sound dully (p. 310, syst. 4). She 
charges her brother Gunther with the deed, but 
he directs the blame upon Hagen (Murder Motive, 
p. 312, syst. 2), who defiantly accepts it (melody 
of the Oath, syst. 3, Blood-Brotherhood Motive, 


The Ring of the Nibelung 

sysL 4); and he daims the Ring as his rightful 
heritage (Ring, p. 313, syst 3). They fight 
(Curse motive, p. 314, sysL i) and Gunther falls 
by a stroke of Hagen's sword. Rushing forward 
to tear the ring from Siegfried's finger, the dead 
man's hand raises itself threateningly toward him 
and he recoils in horror, as the Sword Motive is 
intoned by the trumpets. Brunnhilde advances 
solemnly to the front, accompanied by the down- 
ward and upward sweeping progressions of the 
Gods' Twilight and Xom Motives (p. 314, syst. 
4), finally the Fate harmonies (p. 315, syst. 2), 
silencing the quarrelling querulous lot through the 
majesty and fearful calm of her grief, coming for 
vengeance. Children crying to their mother, she 
has heard, not the lament befitting the highest 
hero's fame (Siegmund's Death Prophecy, syst. 3). 
Gutnme's wild outburst she checks — never was 
she wife of his (themes of Fate and of Gut- 
rune's Greeting, p. 316, syst. 2), and with the 
theme of the World's Heritage proudly claims 
that title for herself (syst. 4). Now Gutrune's 
eyes are opened — she sees for what purpose 
Hagen poured the poison into Siegfried's drink 
(motive of the Magic Deception, p. 317, syst. i, 
then that of Gutrune's Love, syst. 2). 

The Fate Motive and the rhythmic beats of the 
Figure of Mourning, brood oppressively over the 
scene. After long contemplation of Siegfried, 
Brunnhilde turns to the men and women and 
begins that great address, filled with lofty elo- 
quence of grief, passion, solemn exaltation, the 
far-seeing vision of a prophetess and seer, that 


The Dusk of the Gods 

is the very climax and crown of the whole Trilogy, 
In it she apostrophizes her hero, his glory, his 
strength. To the accompaniment of majestic 
chords the motive of the God's Might roll up- 
ward. She bids them kindle a funeral pyre for 
the hero's body and her own (Fire motive, p. 318, 
syst. 5; Siegfried the Volsung, p. 319, syst. i; and 
the Dusk of the Gods, syst. 2). The music, 
developed with grandiose power from these mo- 
tives, then takes a tenderer expression as it passes 
into the theme of Love's Greeting (p. 321, syst. 3). 
'She celebrates his faith; in wedlock traitor, true 
in friendship, from his heart's true love he was 
barred by his sword (Sword motive, p. 322, syst. 
4). Truer than his were oaths never spoken, yet 
bonds he broke — the octaves of the oath are 
quickly hanimered out (p. 324, syst. 1). " Know ye 
why that was? " she asks, as did the Noms; and 
the Death Prophecy and the Fate Motive come to 
point the question. Now she turns to the gods, 
as the Valhalla Motive sounds, and demands that 
they look upon her and behold their eternal dis- 
grace (Renunciation theme, in the vocal melody, 
p. 324, syst. 3; a strain of her theme of Justifica- 
tion is heard in the bass, syst. 4, and developed in 
the next succeeding passage). AH things now she 
knows — motive of Fate (p. 326, syst. i) — and 
now she sends home Wotan's ravens with tidings 
of the Dusk of the Gods. The next following 
orchestral passage is wonderfully wrought of the 
themes of the Curse, the Rhine Gold's Praise, 
Valhalla, and the God's Plight, as Briinnhilde sings 
"Rest thou, rest thou, thou god!" (p. 326, syst. 3). 


The Ring of the Nibclung 

Once more begins the majestic sweep of the 
motives of the Gods' Might (p. 326, syst. 4), of 
their Twilight and of the Primeval Element (p. 
327, syst. i), as she signs to the vassals to put 
Siegfried's body on the pyre they have built. But 
first she draws the ring from his finger — her 
heritage (Curse and Ring, p. 327, syst. 2), which 
she gives away (Rhine Gold's Praise, the Rhine 
Daughters, their first song in "The Rhine Gold," 
the Rhine Gold fanfare, the Rhine Daughters 
again, the Ring, — a wonderful gathering up of 
correlated themes, p. 327-29). From her ashes 
shall the Rhine Maidens recover their treasure, 
purified from its curse by fire. 

Putting the ring on her finger she seizes a fire 
brand (motive of Compact, p. 329, syst. 2) and as 
she waves it the Fire Motive bursts out. Fly 
home, she cries to Wotan's ravens; tell him the 
tidings of the Rhine; but first go to Briinnhilde's 
rock and bid Loge, burning there, go to Valhalla 
(Twilight of the Gods, p. 330, syst. 4). The end 
of the gods is near (Noms, p. 331, syst. i). She 
flings the firebrand upon the pyre, and as it blazes 
up she perceives her horse led forward by two 
men. (Valkyrie's Cry, and motive with the char- 
acteristic rush of triUs and chromatic sixths, p. 
331, syst. 4; p. 332, syst. i). Grane too, shall 
accompany her to her master upon the pyre. Her 
spirit is raised to a fiery exaltation ; and now comes 
that noble melody, first suggested by Sieglinde in 
the last act of "The Valkjnie," as Briinnhilde 
tells her of the hero to be borne by her, the theme 
of Redemption through Love (p. 333, syst. 2) 


The Dusk of the Gods 

which comes to raise the climax of the scene and 
of the work to its summit of grandiose eloquence. 
She swings herself upon the horse and together 
they leap into the flames, which then seize upon 
the building itself, as the scintillation of the 
Magic Fire with Loge's theme seem to possess 
the whole orchestra. The flames die down mo- 
mentarily, and the .Rhine is seen overflowing in 
a mighty flood. The Rhine Daughters come 
with the motive of the Praise of the Rhine Gold, 
up to the very place of the fire, and Hagen, mak- 
ing one last despairing effort to seize the Ring, 
as the Curse motive is thundered from the bass, 
plunges madly into the flood (p. 337, syst. 5) and 
is drawn down by the nixies into the river. The 
Rhine Daughters' song is sung by the orchestra 
(P- 33^? syst. 3); the Valhalla Theme adds its 
solemn strains (syst. 4) ; the theme of Redemption 
through Love is joined to them (syst. 6). Fol- 
lows the theme of the Might of the Gods. The 
hall has fallen into the ruins, and in the distant 
heavens is seen Valhalla, with the gods, blazing 
brightly. The theme of. the Twilight of the 
Gods marks their downfall; and with a softer 
repetition of the theme of Redemption through 
Love, which marks the passing of the old order 
and the coming of a new, the great drama is 
brought to its end. 



William J. Henderson: Richard Wagner, his Life and 
Dramas. New York, G. P. Putnam's Sons. 

Henry T. Finck: Wagner and his Works. New York, 
Charles Scribner's Sons. 

Houston Stewart Chamberlain: Richard Wagner. 
Translated by G. Ainslie Hight. Philadelphia, J. B. 
Lippincott Company. 

Adolphe Jullien : Richard Wagner, his Life and Works. 
Translated by Florence Hall. Boston, J. B. Millet Co. 

C. F. Glasenapp : Life of Richard Wagner. Translated 
by William Ashton Ellis. London, Kegan Paul, 
Trench, Triibner & Co. 

Richard Wagner's Prose Works. Translated by Wil- 
liam Ashton Ellis. London, Kegan Paul, Trench, 
Triibner & Co. (" Opera and Drama," " The Music 
of the Future," "The Art Work of the Future," "A 
Communication to My Friends," Preface to the " Ring" 
poems, "Art and Revolution"). 

Correspondence of Wagner and Liszt. Translated by 
Francis Hueffer. New York, Charies Scribner's Sons. 

Richard Wagner's Letters to His Dresden Friends. 
Translated by J. S. Shedlock. London, H. Grevel & 

Richard Wagner's Letters to August Roeckel. 
Translated by Eleanor C. Sellar. Bristol, England, 
J. W. Arrowsmith. 

W. H. Hadow: Studies in Modem Music, Vol. I. Lon- 
don, Seeley & Co. 

Ernest Newman : A Study of Wagner. New York, G. P. 
Putnam's Sons. 

Henry Edward Krehbiel: Studies in the Wagnerian 
Drama. New York, Harper & Brothers. 

William J. Henderson: Modem Musical Drift. New 
York. Longmans, Green & Co. 



C. Hubert H. Parry: Studies of Great Composers. Lon- 
don, George Routledge & Sons. 

Jessie L. Weston: The Legends of the Wagner Drama. 
New York, Charles Scribner's Sons. 

G. T. Dippold: Richard Wagner's Poem, "The Ring of 
the Nibelung." New York, Henry Holt & Co. 

George Bernard Shaw: The Perfect Wagnerite. Chi- 
cago and New York, Herbert S. Stone & Co. 

Albert Lavignac: The Music Dramas of Richard Wag- 
ner. Translated by Esther Singleton. New York, 
Dodd, Mead & Co. 

Hans Von Wolzogen: Guide through the Music of Wag- 
ner's " Ring of the Nibelimg." Translated by Nathsui 
Haskell Dole. New York, G. Schirmer. 





Alberich's Cry of Triumph XX 48 

Alberich's Curse XXIV 50 

Awakening Day ^ LXXIV 103 

Bird, The LV 78 

Blood-Brotherhood LXXI 97 

Briinnhilde LXV 91 

Brilnnhilde's Awakening • . LIX 86 

Brunnhilde's Heroic Love LXVI 91 

Briinnhilde's Justification XLIII 66 

Compact IX 42 

Coveteousness (The Gibichungs) LVI 80 

Cry of the Valkyrie XXXVI« 59 

Deception by Magic LXX 95 

Donner*s Storm Magic XXVII 52 

Dragon XXII 49 

Dusk of the Gods XXVI 52 

Ecstasy of Love LXI 87 

Enchainment of Love X 43 

Fate XXXIX* 62 

Figure of Mourning LXXVIII 113 

Flight (Freia) XI 43 

Forging, Motive of the LI V 76 

Freia XVII 46 

Giants XII 44 

Gods' Might LI 73 

Gods' Plight, Motive of the XXXVIII 61 

Golden Apples . . ^. XIII 44 


Index to Music Motives 


Greeting of Love LX 87 

Gutrane's Greeting LX VIII 95 

Gutrune's Love LXIX 95 

Hagen LXVII 93 

Heroic Theme of the Volsungs XXXIV 57 

Hunding XXXIII 57 

Loge XIV \ 45 

Love in Nature XLVIII 71 

Love's Resolve, Theme of LXIV . 89 

Magic Fire XV 45 

Menial, Motive of the Ill 38 

Murder LXXIII 102 

Nibelung*s Work of Destruction XXIII 50 

Norn XXV 51 

Nothung Phrase . i LIZ 75 

Oath, The LXXVI 107 

Peace, Theme of LXII 88 

Praise of the Rhine Gold V 39 

Primeval Element (The) 1 36 

Redemption Through Love , XLII 65 

Reflection XVI 46 

Renunciation VII 40 

Rhine Gold IV 38 

Rhine Daughters LXXVII no 

Rhine Maidens, The II 37 

Ring VI 39 

Rising Hoard XXI 49 

Siegfried's Horn Call XLVI 70 

Siegfried's Strenuous Activity XLVII 71 

Siegfried the Volsung XLI 65 

Siegfried's Triumph LIII 75 


Index to Music Motives 


Siegfried the Worid's Treasure LXIII 88 

Sieglinde's Love XXXI 56 

Sieglinde*s Sympathy XXX 55 

Siegmund's Death Prophecy XXXIX b 62 

Slumber XLV 67 

Smithy XVIII 47 

Song of Wandering XLIX 72 

Sword XXVIII 53 

Tangled Threads of Fate LXXII 99 

Tamhdm XIX 48 

TwiUght XLIV 67 

Valhalla VIII 41 

Valkyrie's Cry XXXVI« 59 

Valkyrie's Motive XXXVI* 59 

Valkyrie's Ride XL 64 

Victorious Cry of the Volsungs XXXV 58 

Wearied Siegmund XXIX 55 

Wedding March LXXV 104 

Woes of the Volsungs XXXII 56 

World's Heritage LVIII Z-^ 

Wotan's Grim Humor XXXVII 60 

Wotan's Motive of Wandering L 72 

Yearning for Love , LVII 81 

B, s-ai 



To avoid fine, this book should be returned on 
or before the date last stamped below 


JAN ; 

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MAR \ 19 )1 

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OCT 8 1969 



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